Crain's: Luring Amazon to Chicago would have cost $2.253 billion

Would it have been worth it?

Thanks to some fine reporting by Crain's Chicago Business columnist Greg Hinz, we have at last discovered what taxpayers would have had to cough up to lure Amazon to locate its second headquarters here.

Among the eye-opening disclosures that came as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request and an exclusive interview with Deputy Mayor Bob Rivkin was the cost if Amazon had picked Chicago:

The city, state and county collectively offered $2.253 billion in tax breaks and other incentives. Included were $1.32 billion in state Edge payroll credits (an amount equal to half of state withholding on Amazon wages over a 17-year period), $172.5 million in state sales tax exemptions on an estimated $2.35 billion in office construction costs, and $61 million in property tax relief under Cook County’s 7c incentive program. Also included: $450 million in project infrastructure costs, much of that for transit work needed at the five sites here that Amazon seriously considered, and $250 million in expected spending on workforce training and related education programs that typically are offered to big employers.

There's more, but one interesting sidelight was the coining of a new term to redefine clout--the Chicago Way's practice of having to know a guy in City Haul to get a zoning change, a quick license approval or any of the other ways to get the city's bureaucracy to get off its fat ass.

Call it "concierge service."  As promised, Amazon would be entitled to receive "concierge" service in the city's Building Department to "reduce red tape on construction jobs and for its employees to be able to the same on home-related work."

In other words, Amazon and its employees could jump in front of the line of regular taxpayers for special favors. As if regular Chicagoans would have the privilege of coughing up more to make way for Amazon line-jumpers. Why not? Chicagoans long have been played for chumps by the same folks they have elected. 

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