Amazon’s Bellevue Boom: 25,000 Jobs and a Focus on Community
Amazon’s announcement that the company will expand their Bellevue presence ushered in a new era of growth for the city center, and a wave of optimism that the Downtown economy continues to boom. But this investment in Bellevue goes beyond buildings and jobs. We talked with John Schoettler, Amazon’s Vice President of Global Real Estate and Facilities, to learn a bit about the company’s perspective on growing with – not just within – the community:
BDA: Thanks for talking with us, John! So, Bellevue… Amazon is investing tremendous resources in Downtown. What about our neighborhood makes it a place Amazon wants to be?
JS: The Puget Sound region provides a strong pool of exceptional talent and we’re excited to continue investing in our Bellevue offices and bring more than 25,000 jobs to the city. When it comes to Bellevue, we really do feel like this city has it all - from a growing, business-friendly community with great amenities, a high quality of life, and of course, a fantastic talent pool, these new offices will allow us to sustainably build our footprint in the region.
BDA: On that note, those 25,000 new jobs – what do you hope this will do for the community?
JS: No matter where we are, our goal when investing and creating new jobs is to be a good neighbor and to support the local community and economy. Bringing these good jobs to Bellevue will further the sustainable growth for the Puget Sound region and allow Amazon to become even more engaged in Bellevue. We’re proud of our community efforts to support our neighbors with initiatives that include a donation of more than $1.4 million to Bellevue LifeSpring to launch a new Right Now Needs Fund to support students in need at all 28 Bellevue School District schools. We were also proud to help support the City of Bellevue’s Human Services Fund with a $1 million grant to support human service providers on the Eastside. And, we also recently announced our $2 billion Housing Equity Fund to preserve and create more than 20,000 affordable homes to support moderate to low income families and individuals. Our first commitment in Washington state includes $185.5 million in below-market loans and grants to the King County Housing Authority to preserve up to 1,000 affordable homes in the Puget Sound region, with the first 470 of those units preserved right here in Bellevue.
BDA: Can you share more about Amazon’s donation to the City as well as Bellevue Lifespring to support the community as the pandemic unfolded? Tell us how that came to be and why it was important to the company…
JS: Helping students build their best and brightest future is an important part of Amazon’s commitment to the communities we call home. Our donation to Bellevue LifeSpring supported more than 3,500 students to obtain the necessities they need to be successful at school amid the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. We know that this Fund is already providing immediate relief to students and their families, making sure they can secure items like food, warm clothing, or school supplies.
BDA: Let’s talk small biz. Downtown Bellevue is home to an array of local businesses, from boutiques to restaurants. Many of these businesses have struggled tremendously during the pandemic. Tell us about Amazon’s philosophies and strategies to support small business and why that’s important to a major enterprise like Amazon…
JS: Like I mentioned earlier, we see ourselves as being a good neighbor and part of that is supporting the community during difficult times. For example, last year, at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we created a Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund, which provided $11 million in cash grants and rent relief for small businesses near our offices. We choose to build our offices in the heart of thriving downtown districts because we want our employees to be a part of those vibrant communities, like Bellevue, and to support local small and medium businesses from retail to food services and hospitality.
BDA: Exactly. Downtown isn’t just a place of work, it’s a place of and for people. Amazon partnered with the Bellevue Downtown Association for our Heart of Bellevue small business and community campaign, and also made it possible to produce our Summer Music Series of virtual concerts last year. Why are programs like these important to Amazon?
JS: At the end of the day we are not only committed to making sure that is Amazon a great place to work, but also that we use our scale for good in ensuring that Amazon is good for the local economy and community.
BDA: As Amazon’s presence in Bellevue grows, how is the company engaging the community? What would you like folks to know about Amazon as you expand in our city?
JS: As we continue to grow in Bellevue, Amazon is committed to finding unique ways to support our neighbors. Our community engagement strategy is not a one-size-fits-all approach – we get to know local leaders and nonprofit partners to understand where we can plug in to make a lasting, positive impact. This includes some of the programs I’ve mentioned, like the Housing Equity Fund’s support for King County Housing Authority and our partnership with Bellevue Lifespring for our Right Now Needs Fund. But it also includes support of local organizations and causes, such as the Bellevue Arts Museum, KidsQuest Children’s Museum, and the Bellevue Botanical Garden. It includes unique opportunities, such as in 2019, when a handful of our Amazon Future Engineer interns invented a new Alexa skill called “Keep Calm,” which focuses on meditation, positivity, and mindfulness. The skill was inspired by their work with the Boys and Girls Club of Bellevue, to give the students there an opportunity build mindfulness and to help cut out negative noise.
BDA: Last question… is there a fun fact or insight behind Amazon you’d like to share?
JS: I think something that people hear, but might not have much insight on is how Customer Obsession truly drives everything we do at Amazon. When people hear this, they might think that this only applies to our “customers” on Amazon.com or using an Alexa device for example, but it truly goes beyond that. For us, “customers” are also the people living in the communities in which we operate that we want to engage with and provide jobs for. We will continue to further this commitment by supporting local organizations that are important to creating a sustainable environment for the community to continue to grow and flourish in lock-step with Amazon.
Curious for more? Catch our upcoming Downtown Talks episode for a conversation with John on what Amazon's new buildings will bring to Downtown. Sign up to get the link delivered straight to your inbox!
This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.
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