Amazon move has Boston-Cambridge in a tizzy

If Amazon (s AMZN) opens an office in the Boston-Cambridge area as reported, it would boost a high-tech community that often feels overlooked and undervalued compared to Silicon Valley and Seattle.

Amazon is recruiting engineers for a new, as-yet-unannounced Boston area venue slated to open in 2012, according to a report by The Boston Globe’s Scott Kirsner on Thursday. Kirsner cited unnamed real estate sources who said Amazon is in the hunt for 40,000 square feet of office space in Cambridge’s Kendall Square area. That neighborhood is home to local offices of Microsoft (s MSFT) and Google (s GOOG) and is a stone’s throw away from MIT. Kirsner also referenced Amazon public job postings for four senior level programmers.

When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg showed up for a few photo ops during a recent recruitment sweep at MIT and Harvard, the top question was when Facebook would open up a local office. The sentiment seemed to be that Zuckerberg, an east coaster who attended Harvard, should have stuck closer to home to launch his hugely successful social networking site. He said that such a move might happen but wasn’t imminent. Less than a month later, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg announced plans for a new east coast engineering center: In New York City.  Oh the ignominy.

The Boston area’s inferiority complex manifests itself in odd ways. Comments earlier this fall from Zuckerberg seemed to indicate that if he were to start Facebook all over, he’d stay out east. In the real world, he moved from Cambridge to Palo Alto, Calif. to start Facebook.  But his retro comments fed a feeding frenzy of coverage.

Amazon has been loathe to open up offices in many states because doing so means it has to start charging state sales tax on purchases made by residents of those states. But new federal legislation could well end that advantage e-tailers hold over their brick-and-mortar competitors. That legislation could open the doors to more dot.coms moving actual offices or other facilities to heavily populated states.

Photo courtesy of  Flickr user Samat Jain