The 14-months-long Amazon drama concluded last week when the company finally announced its location choice for its second headquarters. In the process, Amazon learned a lot about cities, and we learned that Amazon is magic: It made billions of dollars that previously never existed suddenly appear overnight. For example, Philadelphia offered $1.1 billion in incentives, with an additional $4.6 billion from the state.
Yes, this is the same state that had to borrow more than a billion dollars to pass a budget two years ago. Naturally, the $4.6 billion, or the city's $1.1 billion, is not written as a check, but rather is the value of incentives and tax breaks, with the idea that the investment will return far more over time. Still, it's clear: You can always find the money if it's important enough.
Getting the 50,000 new jobs promised by Amazon is certainly important, but the fact is, most of those jobs – requiring technical education and expertise — would not necessarily have moved the needle on the city's deep poverty rate.
And that makes us wonder what kind of returns we'd get if the city decided to target that $1.1 billion investment — about $55 million a year — in altering the poverty rate. For example: