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GUEST LETTER: Why Amazon didn't pick Tucson

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Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft, Facebook, Google and similarly enlightened companies espouse diversity, say they care about the poor and disadvantaged and want few restrictions on immigration, yet they would never establish a high-wage headquarters in one of the many poor cities in America that have a large percentage of immigrants from Latin America.

Take Tucson, Ariz. Now compare it with Arlington County, Va., where Amazon is locating its second headquarters — a county that is part of the uber-rich metropolis of Washington, D.C., which grew rich from its main industries of featherbedding, rent-seeking, lobbying, regulating and taxing. 

Tucson’s poverty rate is four times that of Arlington County, and its median household income is only a third of Arlington’s. Also, only 26.6 percent of Tucson residents 25 years and older have a college degree, versus 74.1 percent for Arlington. And significantly, 42.9 percent of Tucson’s population is Hispanic, versus 15.6 percent for Arlington.

At least Arlington’s Latino population is higher than that of 7.5 percent in Redmond, Wash., where Microsoft is located; or the 6.5 percent in Seattle, where Amazon and Starbucks are located.  

Redmond and Seattle are very similar to Arlington in their high levels of wealth and education, as well as their high percentages of Asians and non-Hispanic whites — demographics they share with Silicon Valley, where Google and Facebook are located.  

So if the executives of the rich companies in these locales espouse diversity and care about the poor, why don’t they establish headquarters in a city like Tucson, which sorely needs additional tax revenue and imported wealth?

It’s not that they couldn’t find capable talent in Tucson. After all, the University of Arizona is located in Tucson and has top-notch students in computer engineering and other technical fields. Also located in Tucson are the Basis charter schools, which rank near the top in academics worldwide. Besides, it’s ludicrous to believe some of the supposed best companies in America couldn’t attract talent to wherever they were located.

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Tucson also has a beautiful natural setting, a desirable climate, plenty of outdoor activities in the surrounding mountains and national parks, a hipster area, great restaurants, relatively easy commutes, inexpensive housing and an attractive Hispanic cultural heritage. And to top it off, Tucson leans left, just like the companies in question. What’s not to like?  

Apparently, the executives of the enlightened companies don’t like certain types of diversity. Asians are okay, but Latinos are not.  

It’s also apparent they don’t want to live where the poor outnumber the rich. They’re okay with establishing low-wage warehouses and back offices in such locales as Tucson, but living with the poor and far from their fellow elites is out of the question.

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Lionel Trilling could have been writing about them when he wrote in 1950, “We who are liberal and progressive know that the poor are our equals in every sense except that of being equal to us.”


Mr. Cantoni is a resident of Tucson, an author and activist and a retired management consultant.




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