As you may recall, approximately two years ago Amazon decided not to follow through on its plans to move to Long Island City due to community opposition. New York City could certainly use those tens of thousands of well-paying jobs with their attendant multiplier effect now.
Both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill DeBlasio were supportive of the tax subsidies offered to Amazon. However, they couldn’t stem the tide of knee-jerk community opposition that doomed the Amazon move.
Well, here’s a new Idea for our erstwhile governor and mayor. They should prepare a proposal offering Delta and Coca-Cola office space in New York City pronto. It shouldn’t be hard to resurrect a similar proposal out of the Amazon playbook combining tax breaks and subsidies for every job brought to NYC. Our city has the infrastructure and the educated and diverse workforce that is more than capable of serving these companies’ needs. Further, Long Island City is just 15 minutes from the Delta terminal at the newly modernized LaGuardia Airport, and New York’s hundreds of nationalities are certainly consistent with Coca-Cola‘s international branding.
Why do I suggest this? Now that Delta CEO Ed Bastian and Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey have belatedly spoken out against the Georgia voter suppression bill, the Georgia state legislature doesn’t appear very happy with the exercise of their First Amendment rights. As punishment, the Georgia House of Representatives voted to end a lucrative tax break that Delta enjoyed on jet fuel worth $35 million a year. While the State Senate declined to take up the issue on the last day of the state legislative session, the message was unmistakable. Further, Georgia’s Republican House speaker David Ralston said about the criticism by corporate leaders, “you don’t feed a dog that bites your hand”. Ralston also made a point of saying he had cracked open a can of Pepsi as a dig at Coke, an Atlanta mainstay for over a century.
In other words, it appears that Delta and Coca-Cola are no longer welcome in Georgia. As New York is in dire need of new business, these companies and their employees should certainly be welcome here.
Messrs. Bastian and Quincey likely do not take well to threats. Now that they have figured out that governments that try to limit the right to vote can turn on the corporations that support their local economy, they might want to consider moving their companies to a state that values the democracy that has allowed them to flourish (even if taxes are higher here than elsewhere). While New York is hardly perfect, we do have an appreciation of a functioning pluralistic democracy that represents all citizens and allows everyone to vote without unnecessary obstacles.
Of course, the Georgia law is just the beginning of the effort to limit voting rights throughout the country. Voter suppression is on the march in other major states, including but not limited to the new laws proposed in Texas, Arizona, Florida and Michigan.
So let’s not stop with Delta and Coca-Cola. American Airlines, Dell Computer, Southwest and AT&T just asserted their opposition to Republican efforts to restrict voting in Texas. Guess what – they are welcome here as well.
New York has a long and glorious history of welcoming talented people from all corners of the Earth. Moreover, there is no better example of the diverse workforce and consumer population of the future than Queens, where over 100 languages are spoken.
Our political and business leaders would be wise to jump on this issue quickly. Last week, we sounded the alarms on the existential threat that the loss of office workers poses to New York. Here’s an opportunity to reframe the discussion in a much more positive light and atone for the Amazon fiasco. They should seize it immediately. And to update the great Emma Lazarus poem for a different purpose, give us your revitalized, your wealthy and your unshackled corporations yearning to breathe free. There is a home for them here in New York – the city of the future.
So that’s the way I see it. Please let us know what you think.