Amazon takes its hometown baggage to NYC as Apple makes nice with Austin, Seattle, and SoCal

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A rendering of Amazon’s future office tower in Long Island City. (Photo via NYCEDC.com)

Amazon and Apple are planning new homes in new cities, each with room for thousands of employees. But the comparison between the two companies’ expansion plans ends there.

While Amazon launched an epic, year-long contest between cities in one of the most visible and talked-about economic development deals of all time, Apple took the more traditional route. The Cupertino, Calif. company announced plans to build a second campus in January with little fanfare and quietly spent the year making its decision.

In November, Amazon revealed it would split its “HQ2” between New York and Washington D.C., bringing 25,000 jobs to each. On Thursday, Apple said it would build a 15,000-person campus in Austin, with smaller 1,000-person offices in Seattle, Culver City, Calif., and San Diego.

Amazon’s approach has been controversial from the start and the backlash is particularly acute in New York City, where the company could receive up to $3 billion in state and city incentives. Apple will get a more modest $25 million grant for its Austin project. Frustration over the Amazon deal reached a boiling point this week during a New York City Council hearing where officials grilled executives of the company.

Listen to some of the tough questions Amazon fielded and our commentary on the two economic development deals in this GeekWire podcast.

“You’re worth a trillion dollars,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “Why do you need our 3 billion dollars when we have crumbling subways, crumbling public housing, people without healthcare, public schools that are overcrowded?”

One thing was clear from the hearing, which covered a range of issues from Amazon’s facial recognition technology to the company’s lobbying efforts. New York is paying close attention to how Amazon has behaved in its hometown, Seattle.

“I think we have the capacity to manage the growth that 25,000 jobs would represent and to do what’s necessary to share them fairly but we can only do that if we’ve got a strong local democracy … how can we possibly believe that Amazon will not continue to abuse its monopoly power to erode our democratic capacity to govern our city,” said New York Councilmember Brad Lander.

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