Amazon Should Stay Away From Philly – For Our Own Good


Amazon isn’t a positive experience for any city

My career is in tech.  I have done tech all of my life.  I’m also a fan of capitalism, reasonably-regulated markets, and disruptive technology.

I’m one of the first people to tell you that Amazon should stay as far the fuck away from Philadelphia as possible.

It’s not that I don’t like Amazon’s business.   Like you, I order things from Amazon regularly.   It’s a slightly less evil corporation than Google; a company that started its life trying to avoid invasion of privacy only to turn its back on that for good.

I want to show you something.   This is what Seattle is like, the city where Amazon’s HQ1 is located:

People think that the tent city dwellers are comprised solely of heroin addicts.  There are a lot of former tech employees living in a situation that Seattlites happily call “camping”.   They’re trying to sound cute, and still show that they care.   The monied classes in the Puget Sound don’t really give a shit about any of these folks.

And the tent cities are not small.  Over 15 different Seattle neighborhoods including 5 suburban towns in Puget Sound now have camps.  There is a camp less than 2 miles from Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, WA.

Employment cures homelessness.    No company no matter what size would accept tax breaks or even 100% tax exemptions with a condition that local employment be a requirement.   Likewise a company like Amazon wouldn’t accept clawbacks for non-compliance either.

And Amazon is not going to setup shop without massive exemptions from direct taxation.   The term we call this behavior: crony capitalism.

Tech companies are far from being diverse workplaces

San Francisco and Bay Area tech firms have often lauded their diversity scorecards.    When it comes to racial diversity there is no tech company anywhere in Seattle or in Silicon Valley that looks good when you look at one simple metric:

How many black people check in source code or are the principle architects of the core products of your company?

In medium to large tech firms in the Bay Area this value is usually zero or a single digit number close to zero.

You will see black employment in tech firms rising when you look at any tech company’s diversity scorecard.   That is because black people are only allowed on the periphery.   They’re in graphic design.  Sales.  Marketing.   Operations support.   None of them are encouraged to move into the roles that are critical to a tech company’s survival.   Programming is so critical that few tech companies have felt the need to use their enormous pressure on colleges and universities across this nation to create more black tech employment in the jobs that truly matter–the ones that pay the highest salaries.

If you’re black and you want to get into that role you’re going to have to be like my friend Wil ReynoldsCEO of Seer Interactive: start your own fucking company.

A tech firm that’s heavily loaded with whites, Asians and imports in the critical roles of the company is not a diverse workplace.  There’s no indication that the arrival of Amazon would change any of this hiring behavior and that is going to stick out like a sore thumb in Philly that has a large black population.

This old motel in Seattle will be demolished by Amazon soon. The company lent the building out as a temporary homeless shelter to fend off bad publicity.

There’s a bunch of starry-eyed people around here who believe that Amazon HQ2 will be a magical quick fix for our econ woes in much the same way the legislators believed casinos would be the cure for budget deficits.

It will do no such thing.   Fuck Jeff Bezos.