In 2017, Social Tables founder and CEO Dan Berger saw a need for an advocacy group inside the D.C. tech community. And, like any founder, instead of waiting around for someone else to do it, he gathered a group and got the momentum flowing himself.
Including members from Optoro, Surprise Ride and other notable local companies, the Capital Tech Coalition decided to focus on an action against the Trump administration’s policies on immigration and travel as its first move.
Now, the group is turning its efforts to Amazon.
As more is revealed about what the D.C. government’s bid included for Amazon’s second headquarters, local tech leaders are demanding the government offer them the same deal. So far, it has been reported that the bid included relocation reimbursements up to $7,500 per worker who moves to D.C. and wage reimbursements up to $30,000 per new job it fills locally with military veterans. A five-year freeze on property taxes on every building the firm occupies at least half of in D.C., a 10-year exemption on personal property taxes on qualified items, and a sales tax exemption in perpetuity are also included in the bid.
“While we are cautiously excited about the potential for growth that might come from Amazon opening HQ2 in this region, we are concerned that many of the incentives offered to this tech giant are not similarly made available to the District’s native tech companies,” writes Berger in a letter sent to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser Monday.
The letter is signed by 10 members of the Capital Tech Coalition, and Council Member David Grosso (I-At Large) is copied on the letter. Berger told DC Inno that Grosso has been an ally to the tech leaders’ efforts and the group has met with him several times to discuss their concerns.
“Now, having seen the incentives D.C. has offered Amazon to entice them to bring HQ2 to D.C., we’re asking our Mayor to for same considerations,” Berger writes in a Medium post about the letter.
Below is the letter sent to Mayor Muriel Bowser on Monday in its entirety:
“March 4, 2018
Dear Mayor Bowser,
As you know, Washington’s high-tech scene (#dctech) has grown significantly since many of us launched our companies here years ago. We’ve had the privilege to witness and drive much of that growth firsthand. While we are cautiously excited about the potential for growth that might come from Amazon opening HQ2 in this region, we are concerned that many of the incentives offered to this tech giant are not similarly made available to the District’s native tech companies.
Startups and smaller high-growth companies bring tremendous economic and cultural benefits to our region just as Amazon might do at some point in the future, only we are doing it right now. Moreover, the jobs we create are dispersed throughout the District, enabling all neighborhoods to benefit. Investing in smaller companies is good for the District because it promotes competition in the marketplace — leading to better jobs with fairer pay — and fuels a purely local engine of value creation.
We are writing to respectfully ask for your support in offering companies like ours the same benefits and incentives that have been proposed for Amazon, including, for example:
- Relocation cost reimbursements. Many of our companies have relocated talent to Washington. This talent tends to stick around and continue to add value over time. Assistance with relocation costs would help us bring even more good paying jobs to the District.
- Wage reimbursement. Many of our employees live in Washington where the cost of living is significantly higher than that of surrounding areas in Virginia and Maryland. Business tax credits for hiring District residents would allow us to provide our workforce with better quality of life benefits, and would incentivize us to hire residents or encourage current employees to move into the District. Such a credit should be higher for veterans.
- On-the-job training bonuses. One of the most vital benefits we bring to the community is increased opportunities for education and training. As just one example, we sometimes hire employees without any coding skills and train them to become full-time software engineers. The District should recognize the value job retraining has for its communities and incentivize that behavior.
- Property tax freeze. Corporate rents in the District can be twice as high as in Virginia. We would like your help in alleviating this severe economic burden with a freeze on our property taxes. This would allow us to maintain and expand our presence here.
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) sales tax relief. Many of our companies provide SaaS services, which have proven to be huge value creators in the market. We would like to see a threshold introduced that will provide startups relief from SaaS sales tax until they reach a certain amount of revenue.
We would greatly appreciate an opportunity to meet with you to discuss these and other suggestions we believe would further maximize a private-public partnership between our community of high-tech companies and the District.
Please contact Dan Berger who is leading this effort for us at to coordinate a follow-up.
The executives of the following CTC member organizations:
CaryRx | Hatch Apps |Humble Ventures
Insomniac Design |LayerCake | Made In Order
Optoro | Plum Relish | Social Tables | Surprise Ride
CC: Councilman David Grosso, At-Large”