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Economy

California's Lessons for the Amazon HQ2 Bidding War

As cities offer massive incentives to win business, economists at UC Riverside offer up a cautionary tale—and examples of how to negotiate benefits for workers and the community.
Job hunters, left unemployed after the recession in 2008, attend a job fair in Ontario, California. 10 years later, the city's economy is still recovering.
Job hunters, left unemployed after the recession in 2008, attend a job fair in Ontario, California. 10 years later, the city's economy is still recovering.Chris Carlson/AP

When home-shopping retailer QVC announced it would be opening its first West Coast distribution center in 2015, California cities scrambled to compete to host it. At the time, Ontario, California, like many other cities in the U.S., was still recovering from the recession, and it needed the influx of jobs and cash. So the city bet big—and won.

Ontario billed itself as the place with everything QVC was looking for. “There were a number of criteria: freeway adjacency, adjacency to an international airport—but also incentives,” said John Adams, economic development director for the city.