An Amazon VP took some tough questions about Seattle’s growth last night in Belltown.
Bad traffic, the lack of affordable housing, the idea that an influx of well paid tech employees could be pricing people out of the city — it all came up in the course of a fascinating and sometimes tense conversation with Amazon’s John Schoettler at Seattle City Club’s Civic Cocktail.
Amazon is the city’s largest private employer, landowner, and taxpayer, with more than 30,000 local employees and 30 buildings in Seattle’s core. It recently partnered with local nonprofits like Mary’s Place to house the homeless, and FareStart to provide job training for struggling Seattleites. It also held a “Nonprofit Expo” to encourage its employees to volunteer in the city.
To what extent should a fast growing, wildly successful tech company be held accountable for changes in the city that’s booming along with it? Journalists, audience members, and John himself seemed to be circling that question all night.
At the end, we at The Evergrey asked John to address a concern we’re sensing from some locals that Seattle could change so deeply that they no longer recognize it as the city they love.
“It’s not what we want to hear. And I think we have a lot of people working really hard to make sure that we are very good neighbors and doing our very best. We’re never going to please everybody, that’s impossible. We’ll die trying to do that, so I’ll say we’re not going to try to do that right here. We really — we want to be a good neighbor a good contributor. I know there are employees just by the nonprofit expo, that thousands of people are looking to get involved or have already gotten involved in a lot of these places. I think it’s testament to the type of place we want to see Amazon become in the city, and what we want for our employees. Because that’s all part of the quality of life, and the reason that somebody would want to come work with us in the first place.”