Bidding war for Amazon’s second headquarters is underway, here’s who’s on top

The bidding war for Amazon’s second headquarters began on Monday, and several cities have already submitted their proposals. New Jersey has submitted a bid for their city of Newark, offering up what could potentially be the greatest financial incentive for Amazon—$7 billion in tax breaks.

Just last month, Amazon announced a competition to source a location for their second headquarters. Dubbing it “HQ2,” Amazon is looking to spend up to $5 billion building the new hub, which will run in tandem with the Seattle-headquarters. The city lucky enough to land the gig would gain 50,000 jobs with an average salary of $100,000.

On the surface, Newark, NJ would appear to have everything Amazon is looking for. In the suburbs of New York City, Newark benefits from an extensive network of public transportation and even has its own airport. There are 60,000 students studying in six colleges and universities across Newark. This, combined with the proximity to other large metropolises like New York City and Philadelphia, means HQ2 would have an extensive talent network to pool from for future employees. Newark has some prime office space available for development, as well as more affordable housing than New York City or Jersey City.

Monday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced their bid for HQ2. According to Fortune, the proposed $7 billion in tax breaks is broken down between state and city incentives.

The state has estimated that HQ2 could bring a potential $9 billion to the economy. As such, New Jersey is offering $5 billion in tax incentives over the next 10 years, but not before the 50,000 jobs are added. The city of Newark has also proposed a tax incentive, offering $1 billion in local property tax breaks and $1 billion worth of waived wage taxes for Amazon’s HQ2 employees over the next 20 years.

Amazon is allowing cities to submit their proposals through October 19.

Nearby Philadelphia is also reported to be ranked high on Amazon’s list of prospects. The city of brotherly love also proposed a tempting financial incentive, offering 10 years of property tax abatement. However, Fortune stipulates that it is “unclear” what, definitively, Amazon will gain from the plan.

Moody’s Analytics, a subsidiary of Moody’s Corp. providing economic and capital markets analysis, released a shortlist of cities they expect to be at the top of Amazon’s list. Coming in on top was Austin, TX. Austin was followed by Atlanta, Philadelphia, Rochester, Pittsburgh, New York City and the surrounding metro area, Miami, Portland, Boston and Salt Lake City.

The study first evaluated cities based on their adherence to Amazon’s laundry list of requirements for their new location. It also chose cities based on other economic factors. Other factors included: business environment, human capital, cost, quality of life and transportation.

One city that was absent from Moody Analytics’ list was Chicago, who submitted their proposal on Monday. Although Chicago’s announcement of their eligibility on Monday lacked details, Mayor Rahm Emanuel did release a statement.

“Chicago offers unparalleled potential for future growth for businesses of all sizes and is the ideal place for Amazon to build its HQ2,” the mayor’s statement read. “This bid will demonstrate to Amazon that Chicago has the talent, transportation and technology to help the company as it reaches new heights and continues to thrive for generations to come.”

Other cities have proposed to Amazon before submitting a formal bid. Kansas City’s mayor went on a reviewing spree on Amazon products. Georgia offered up a sizable amount of land totaling to a grand 345 acres; they even said they would name the site after the company, giving birth to the new city of Amazon, GA. A company in Tucson sent Amazon a 21-foot saguaro cactus to their Seattle headquarters.

Although amusing, the LA Times points out that such strategies to catch Amazon’s attention probably won’t amount to much. After all, the retail giant’s detailed seven-page request mostly highlighted financial incentives. Such incentives could materialize in the form of land, tax credits, relocation grants, workforce grants and fee reductions. These would be critical for Amazon, considering such incentives would allow the company to build a new “mega-campus” and offset “ongoing operational costs.”

Oh, and that 21-foot saguaro cactus? Amazon tweeted that they couldn’t accept the gift, “even really cool ones.” It was donated to Tucson’s Desert Museum. Better luck next time, Tuscon.

Featured image via Flickr/Robert Scoble

More and more Amish businesses are using technology

There are 2,000 thriving Amish businesses in the Lancaster, PA area, Donald B. Kraybill, a retired professor at Elizabethtown’s Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, told the New York Times. Many are worth several million dollars.

More and more of those businesses are not strictly agrarian. Many now function with the aid of technology, which the Amish traditionally shun.

Amish communities are growing rapidly, the Times notes, citing an August report by researchers at Elizabethtown College near Lancaster that estimates the Amish population in the U.S. at 313,000. That figure represents a 150 percent increase from 25 years ago.

Most of the growth occurs internally. On average, the Times says, an Amish married-woman has seven children. Marriage is more common in their tight-knit communities than in America as a whole, and they tend to marry younger than the average American does.

With the population growth, farmland has become scarce and more expensive, compelling many Amish people to relocate to rural areas in places like upstate New York, and/or to adopt business trades. In many cases, the move toward such trades necessitates increased interaction with the non-Amish community and requires the Amish to commute into cities for work.

Both of those demands entail the use of modern conveniences and technology traditionally prohibited within the sect.

Moses Smucker, an Amish man who lives in Lancaster, runs a food store and sandwich shop, Smuckers Quality Meats and Grill, in Philadelphia, which lies 80 miles east of Lancaster. Six days a week, a non-Amish driver to takes Smucker, who does not drive a car, into the city.

Smucker told the Times he enjoys escaping the city after his work is done. “Philadelphia is very fast-paced,” he said. “Then I go home, and I can drive my horse. I enjoy horses. Some people don’t, but I do. It slows everything down.”

With regard to technology, Smucker said: “You have to do what you have to do to stay in business. People are starting to understand that.”

Smucker’s shop, which gets four and a half stars on 80 reviews on Yelp!, accepts credit cards as payment.

Amish Country Gazebos, which supplies landscaping structures for the Marriott, the Hilton, Harrah’s and other notable chains, operates online and makes deliveries using its own trucks.

John, an Amish man in his late 60s, cuts wood for the gazebo company using a computer-driven crosscut saw. (Like many people who appear in the Times article, John, in deference to Amish values of humility, declined to provide his surname.)

“We call him the computer geek sometimes,” John’s son, Junior, told the Times.

Sam, a 29-year-old Amish man, used to make deliveries for Amish Country Gazebos, but now works on a computer in the company’s shop. It was difficult for him to learn how to interact with the machine, but once he did, he saw how it could facilitate business operations.

“I thought, I need to know how this computer thinks, or the computer needs to know how I think—we need to get along!” he said, per the Times.

Now, he appreciates the efficiency of the machine. “I can easily see it helping as far as numbers go — oh my goodness — to get rid of all these papers.”

But, Sam told the Times he has “never thought about bringing a computer” onto his property in Lancaster. Like many in his community, he draws a sharp line between business and home life, especially with respect to technology.

Still, technology is becoming part of the fabric of Amish life even at home. Many members of the community use lawnmowers and other electric yard-care equipment.

Though hooking into a public utility feed remains unheard of, some Amish people electrify their homes using power generators and solar panels.

Smartphones are becoming increasingly common in the community. The opening of the Pandora’s box that is the internet has given rise to fears about pornography and excessive influence from the outside world.

Through social media, for instance, Amish children may develop romantic attachments toward non-Amish peers—Amish rules frown upon such relationships.

“There’s always a concern about what would lead our young folk out of the church and into the world,” said John.

“Amish life is about recognizing the value of agreed-upon limits,” Erik Wesner, an author who studies the Amish way of life and runs a blog called Amish America, “and the spirit of the internet cuts against the idea of limits.”

While Marilyn, an 18-year-old Amish woman, values limits—she said she made an effort to respect church leaders’ wishes by limiting her cell phone usage in church—she says there must be a limit to the Amish’s resistance to technology.

“We can’t live like we did 50 years ago because so much has changed,” she said. “You can’t expect us to stay the same way. We love our way of life, but a bit of change is good.”

John’s wife, Lizzie, was disturbed by people’s obsession with their phones. “People are treating those phones like they are gods,” she told the Times. “They’re bowing down to it at the table, bowing down to it when they’re walking. Here we say we don’t bow down to idols, and that’s getting dangerously close, I think.”

Having lived without technology for so long, the Amish are more sensitive to its effect on human interaction than others are, Kraybill said per the Times.

Despite the concerns it raises in the community, technology is becoming more and more necessary as the Amish adapt what Kraybill calls their ““very entrepreneurial, very capitalistic” spirit for the 21st century.

“We’re not supposed to have computers; we’re not supposed to have cell phones,” said John. “We’re allowed to have a phone, but not in the house. But to do business, you need a computer, or access to one, and that phone moves into the house. So how do you balance that?”

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

Soda Tax Brings In More Than Expected

The sweetened beverage tax received this year for the city of Philadelphia was up to $5.7 million for just the first month. That’s more than double what the Revenue Department estimated but less than the amount needed. Earlier in the year the Revenue Department project the amount of tax to be $2.3 million in January.

This number was to accommodate the expectation that businesses would lag long enough for the new tax to register. There was also the expectation that more than a few retailers would load up on pre-tax products.

The main goal for the year is $91 million. In order for this goal to be met, tax intake will need to increase by $7.7 million by April. This is certain to assure such a large number and maintain that number as well as bring in another $7 million in unpaid taxes for the remainder of the year.

These numbers were released after a campaign “Ax the Bev Tax” expressed the complaints of sellers who reported at least a 30 to 50 percent loss in sales. the owner of ShopRite stores in the city says that since that in the next upcoming week he might get rid of at least 300 jobs because of dropping sales. He commented saying, “There’s no way of knowing the layoff number, but 280, 300 jobs will be gone one way or the other. If a person quits or goes on unemployment, or I lay them off, the jobs will be gone.”

Even those opponents of the soda tax say that the estimated number given by the administration is a bit too low. They also believe that at the rate of collection the number won’t be achieved.

Yet while many stores are worrying about how the tax might influence sales and jobs, restaurants say that the tax has had little effect on them. The vice president of government affairs for Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, Melissa Bova said, “When people go out, they’re going to get the soda no matter what — the problem is the cost of buying the product has gone up, so they’re trying to find a way to not pass on the entire cost to the customer.”

However, the largest problem most restaurants and even fast food chains seem to be suffering with is increasing their prices in order to make up the free refills that are offered. It’s $60 with a $57 tax for just one five-gallon bag of syrup that is used in many soda fountains.

8 Year Old Boy Becomes First Successful Double Transplant Patient

One of the best things about modern technological advancements is the upgrades in the medical field. It enables patients to experience recovery like never before, and doctors can do the almost impossible.

One such incident involves an eight year-old boy and his impressive record breaking road to recovery. Zion Harvey is a little boy from Baltimore who was in need of a double hand transplant. The boy had lost his hands and feet to an infection and underwent an operation in July at a children’s hospital in Philadelphia.

The doctors transplanted both arms and forearms on little Harvey quite successfully. Apparently, an attempt like this has never been made on a child, and it had only been done 25 times before on adults. Earlier on, the boy also had a kidney transplant which he had lost due to a serious infection.

After a little bit of intensive therapy and getting used to his new limbs, Zion Harvey will soon be able to play around like a child should. Hopefully, other patients are inspired by this young boy’s story and soldier on towards their road to recovery.

Image: Via Flickr/Elliott Brown

Glassdoor Answers: Which Are the Top 50 Cities for Jobs?

The job network site, Glassdoor, has helped a myriad of aspirants in some way or another get jobs. Be it vacancy postings, 6 degrees of separation or even ranks, this website has so many answers. As of now, Glassdoor has posted a list of the top 50 cities for jobs. In times like these, a list of this nature is helpful indeed.

Job seekers gaze hopefully down this list with a view to understand where to job hunt next. The rankings have been tallied on three major aspects: the first aspect is hiring opportunity, the second is the cost of living in that city and lastly is the basis of job satisfaction. Based on these calculations, the results are truly a sight to see.

Number 1 on this list is Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina. What is surprising is that some cities that one would expect are nowhere on the list. Instead, the city of Louisville, Kentucky is number 8 and Washington, D.C. is number 10. While ranking in at 25 is Nashville, Tennessee and Jacksonville, Florida is number 30.

There are a few promising cities at the end of the list as well. Hartford, Connecticut is at 31 and Detroit, Michigan at number 32. Ranked at number 40 is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and at the final rank of number 50 is Riverside, California.

So here’s to hoping that this definitive ranking with help young professionals all over the country find the jobs they want amongst these cities.

Image: Via Flickr/Matt Lemmon

Comcast Calls Changes Customer’s Name to “A-Hole” on Bill

Comcast is one of the biggest cable providers in the United States, which is why many are surprised by the lack of professionalism from the company after a customer’s name was changed from Ricardo to “A-hole” on his bill.

Lisa Brown contacted Elliot.org, and provided proof that Comcast called her husband, Ricardo, an “A-hole.” Brown believes that the name-calling is in response to a customer service call that she had recently had with the service provider.

 

Brown has been with Comcast for two years now, and planned to continue using the service, but in a recent turn of events she had to see if she could cut her bill because of financial difficulties. She was transferred from a customer service representative to a retention specialist who kept trying to keep Brown on her current plan, and make her sign an additional two-year contract with the company.

Brown says that the incident could have resulted because, “It could have been that person was upset because I didn’t take the offer.”

Since the incident was reported Comcast is investigating further into the claim, and a senior representative told Elliot.org, ““We have spoken with our customer and apologized for this completely unacceptable and inappropriate name change. We have zero tolerance for this type of disrespectful behavior and are conducting a thorough investigation,”

Since the incident happened, Brown told the blog that Comcast has called and has offered her a two-year refund, and along with the investigation they plan on firing the employee who is responsible for the name change.

If you work in customer service you may deal with customers who may not agree with you or may see things differently, but you are also a representative of the company. This employees actions resulted in the lose of their job, and the company had to reimburse the client because one disgruntled employee decided that enough was enough.

English: Comcast service van, Ypsilanti Townsh...
English: Comcast service van, Ypsilanti Township, Michigan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Boyfriend of ‘Glee’ Star Becca Tobin Found Dead in a Hotel

Matt Bendik, “Glee” star Becca Tobin’s boyfriend, was found dead in a Philadelphia hotel room Thursday, July 10, just a few days before the first anniversary of the death of Cory Monteith on July 13. He was 35.

According to New York Daily News, Bendik’s body was found around 1 p.m. by a staff member at the Hotel Monaco. No drugs or paraphernalia were found in his hotel room. Bendik’s body was taken to the Medical Examiner for an autopsy.

The couple was in Philadelphia for a business trip and was spotted in a club on Wednesday night. It was not clear where Tobin, who played cheerleader Kitty Wilde on “Glee,” was at the time when Bendik died, but police said there were no obvious signs of foul play.

Bendik ran several nightclubs across the U.S., but he was the director of operations at the hot spot DBA in Los Angeles. The club tweeted a picture Thursday night that said, “We love you Matt.”

Thirty-one-year-old Monteith, on-and-off screen boyfriend of “Glee” cast Lea Michele, died of heroin and alcohol mix in the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Vancouver on July 13, 2013.