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Amazon Exec Concedes The Company’s Growth In Seattle Has `Unintended Consequences’

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Amazon's growth is fueling a construction boom in the city's South Lake Union neighborhood.

Amazon has been growing so fast in Seattle that the company has lately been blamed for everything from too few women in the dating pool to traffic gridlock and rising rents. Now, the company is trying to show how having its campus in Seattle is a benefit to the city. 

One criticism of Amazon has been that the company does not comment a lot on what it is doing. Amazon Senior Vice President Jeff Wilke acknowledged that in his keynote speech to the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

"Because we tend to remain laser focused on our customers and we haven’t always been the chattiest bunch about our larger growth plans, you may not know much about us," he said. 

Wilke used the speech to highlight how Amazon is benefiting the city and the state. He says Amazon is now Seattle’s biggest employer with more than 20,000 workers.

"We know that our presence produces many positive outcomes for the city – high wages, lower unemployment and a thriving economy – as businesses sprout up to support the population here," he said.

Those positive outcomes, Wilke says, include everything from art installations and a dog park the company has added in the South Lake Union neighborhood, to higher tax revenue. 

"Just last year, we estimate that Amazon, Amazonians and those employed as a result of our urban location have contributed over $400 million in tax revenue in Washington state," he said. 

’Unintended Consequences’

But in an acknowledgement of the conversation that has dominated Seattle lately, Wilke conceded that there are some downsides to the company’s rapid growth. 

"There are unintended consequences and we’re actively taking steps to address those issues," he said.

Wilke alluded to the city’s rising rents and said the company has contributed more than $20 million toward Seattle’s affordable housing fund. But that money is not a donation; a spokesman for Amazon says the city required that payment in exchange for permission to build taller buildings.

Still, it is clear Amazon is trying to take a more active role in civic affairs. The new chairman of the Seattle Chamber Board is another Amazon executive, John Schoettler.

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