Former Colorado governor says having Amazon in Denver would negatively impact quality of life
Amazon building an "HQ2" - a second headquarters - in Denver would "leave us toothless and blind," says Former Gov. Richard Lamm.
Lamm spoke at a forum hosted by the Denver Press Club Monday and joins the growing chorus of people that don't think $5 billion in construction and 50,000 employees is the kind of economic boon Denver needs.
Already facing facing a population increase of up to 1,000 new residents each month, Lamm said the region's roads, schools and public safety would suffer under the additional stress.
Tom Clark, former head of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., begged to differ.
"Cities do one of two things - you either grow or you decline," he said.
Clark now sits on the Denver Economic Development Commission and said he couldn't share everything he knows about Colorado's Amazon bid, but said "Politically, you have to respond, and Amazon is a company worth responding to."
However, he also said he isn't optimistic about Colorado's chances among the 238 proposals Amazon has received.
Clark, who has worked deals with Boeing, United, General Electric and many others since moving to Denver in 1982 with Anheuser Busch, thinks Boston and Toronto are more likely choices. Toronto, because of the healthcare there, he said, and Boston because of its major international airport.
"There are ten major criteria, but there was a time where it used to be labor, labor, labor," he said. "Now it's sixty minutes from a world-class airport."
Which may be another way of saying he doesn't think of Denver International Airport as "world-class."
About Amazon, he said, "These are people that are going to add a great deal to this community," pointing to the fact that Amazon employees at HQ2 would be paid $100,000 annually.
"This is a pretty good company," he said. "And to be truthful with you, they used to be (expletives). I dealt with them when they were (expletives). They're better now because they realized you can't do business that way.
Lamm, though, said to have Colorado taxpayers, with an average income of $57,000, helping subsidize one of America's large corporations and the richest man in America, Jeff Bezos, is a bad deal.
"This is a bad system," he said. "It takes money away that is desperately needed for the impact and to have a quality of life society, and I would hope that Colorado could be part of the operation that stops it."
The entire Colorado Congressional delegation sent Amazon a letter of intent saying Colorado is a great place to do business, and urged the company to locate here.
However, comments about the letter posted on Rep. Diana DeGette's page show that not all are as enthusiastic as the elected officials. More than 88 percent of the comments on the post were avidly against H2Q setting up shop in Denver.
One attendee of the forum who said he moved to Denver for the arts and culture, asked the panel what and Amazon hub would do to "the soul of Denver."
No one responded immediately, but Lamm eventually spoke up and told the man, "I don't know, but you're asking the right question."
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock appeared on CBS national news Monday morning, saying about the possibility of Amazon expanding in Denver, "We're going to put our best foot forward.
"At the end of the day, we're going to continue to be Denver, regardless of what happens," Hancock said.