The same week that Dallas and Fort Worth jointly submitted a bid for Amazon’s HQ2, I sat in a room surrounded by the next Jeff Bezoses.
HQ2, in case you’ve been kidnapped by the ghost of Jack Ruby and kept in a CIA bunker guarded by Candy Barr for the past six months, is the biggest economic development project since Toyota looked for someplace less liberal to park their Corollas. Amazon is seeking a location for a second headquarters, having outgrown the one in Seattle. Whatever lucky locale gets chosen will reap the benefits of 50,000 new high-paying jobs, decent health benefits, a copy of James Patterson’s latest bestseller and massive, stroke-inducing, traffic jams. Who wouldn’t beg for that?
But I was sitting in a room at Fort Worth’s Museum of Science and History with 140 or so of Cowtown’s hottest entrepreneurs, a few days after Fort Worth and Dallas had submitted their bid to Amazon’s corporate overlords in Seattle. Might be cool to have a big branch of Amazon here. I’m sure their book clubs kick ass and I’ll bet the local sushi bars would welcome the new trade. But what about the people in this very room? Just on one panel we had David Minor, of Minor and Associates, who has grown and sold several companies as well as led TCU’s entrepreneur program; Gina Puente of Puente Enterprises, who, among many other things, opened the first winery in an airport; Bobby McGee of US Growth Fund, who has invested in a variety of consumer food products; and Michael Fletcher, now of Ride TV, who has been an entrepreneur primarily in the media field.
How many jobs have been created by that panel alone? I don’t know the number and they probably don’t either, but the number is somewhere north of “a lot.” Can they create 50,000 jobs? Wouldn’t put it past them. And to look around the room at the eager, focused, high-energy crowd of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs-to-be, I sure wouldn’t put it past them. Nothing against the man- and woman-hours put in to deliver the package of “Please pick us, pick us! We’re prettier than Cleveland!” we delivered to the e-commerce giant, but what could we do to help create an Amazon with more of a West Texas drawl? Brazos anyone?
I know. An idea like Amazon doesn’t come along every day or the once-bustling local Sears wouldn’t now resemble a ghost town. Sometimes, the time is just right for a new idea. Did you know that Walmart, Target, Kmart and Kohl’s all began their journey to retail giantness in the same year, 1962? True. Was it serendipity or did the upgrades to U.S. transportation post-World War II, along with some changes in commerce laws suddenly give people like Sam Walton access to the ability to implement their ideas?
Or maybe it’s the dawn of a new technological age and, as chronicled in the series Halt and Catch Fire, it’s who gets there first with at least a half-way decent implementation. I don’t think anyone can bottle entrepreneurism. If they could, some entrepreneur would, I’m sure.
One of the speakers at our Entrepreneur Summit was Frost Prioleau, a co-owner of Simpli.fi, a Fort Worth-based digital advertising firm that has been growing by leaps and bounds. He’s started several other firms and says the one lesson that resonates over and over in his head is “work hard, be nice.”
So let’s “work hard, be nice.” Maybe we’ll create those 50,000 jobs right here and Bezos will enviously say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” buried in snow in Cleveland.
Robert Francis is editor of the Fort Worth Business Press.