Amazon lobbyist registers in Georgia, triggering buzz amid ‘HQ2’ search

Amazon, the e-commerce giant that Georgia is wooing for its second headquarters project, now has a registered in-house lobbyist at the State Capitol.

Jacob Oster, a lobbyist with expertise in “clean energy and technology,” registered Dec. 7 with the state ethics commission. Oster, who represents Amazon Corporate LLC, listed addresses in Washington, D.C., and Seattle.

It’s unclear on what issues or upcoming legislative proposals Oster might represent Amazon, but his registration is the buzz of economic development circles.

Amazon is a growing employer in Georgia, operating distribution hubs for its e-commerce network, as well as a corporate hub for its Amazon Web Services division.

In the section listing “purpose of group,” Oster noted: retail.

Reached by phone, Oster directed comment to the company’s media relations department. Amazon representatives did not immediately return an e-mail message seeking comment.

The state legislative session starts next month.

Amazon is an outspoken proponent of clean energy. Amazon has supported renewable power initiatives and built wind and solar projects in other states. The web services division, for instance, has committed to 100 percent renewable energy use for its worldwide operations.

The company’s goal is to have 50 percent of its web services operations powered by renewable sources by year-end. Amazon also wants to deploy solar arrays on more than 50 of its distribution or fulfillment centers by 2020, according to the company’s website.

It’s unclear the last time Amazon had an in-house lobbyist at the Gold Dome. The company has been represented by outside groups, including veteran Georgia lobbyist Graham Thompson, for some time. But the timing of the company adding an in-house lobbyist in Georgia is intriguing.

Georgia is one of 238 official bidders for Amazon's North American headquarters or "HQ2." The project, the most coveted in economic development circles in years, is expected to create 50,000 new jobs and involve $5 billion in new investment.

In October, a Georgia official delivered the state's official pitch for the project, and state leaders have previously said they expected Amazon officials to begin site visits of prospect cities before the end of the year.

Amazon has said it plans to pick its second headquarters city next year.

A number of groups have listed metro Atlanta has a possible finalist for the project, citing the region’s skilled workforce, research universities, burgeoning tech scene and world-class airport.

Winning the deal will likely require a bevy of incentives, with some observers saying it’ll likely take a nine- or 10-figure package of tax breaks, transportation upgrades and grants.

A LinkedIn page for Oster indicates he started in energy policy at the Seattle-based tech and e-commerce giant in July after serving as a lobbyist for cloud software firm EnergySavvy and as an aide for U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont. Oster also has experience as a political director for the Humane Society of the United States.

One of the phone numbers listed in Oster’s online profile with the state goes to the desk of Braden Cox, an Amazon director of state and local public policy. On Cox’s LinkedIn page, he lists himself as a leader of Amazon’s “state [and] local policy and economic development teams.”

Cox is a University of Georgia graduate with degrees in both finance and law, according to his profile.