In Market: Trains and boats and planes and Amazon

🕐 3 min read

Tarrant Transit Alliance

On the muscle of my arm there’s a red and blue tattoo

Says, Fort Worth I love you – Michael Martin Murphy

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Sure, we love our city. Great Mexican food, barbecue and chicken-fried steaks, what’s not to love?

But will Amazon love us enough to locate HQ2 here? We won’t know until Jeff Bezos stops counting his money and makes the final decision. But hey, we made the cut to the final 20. And that wasn’t easy.

Based on the cities that made the cut, and what the company told some of the cities that didn’t, the company will likely scrutinize six key criteria when making its final call: Talent, size, quality of life, education, those ever popular tax breaks and incentives, and transit. Amazon plans to announce its decision later this year.

Amazon executives were pretty quick to tell some areas that didn’t make the cut why they didn’t. As quickly as the Amazon site tells you they no longer have that special body lotion you love, they bluntly told officials from Kansas City, Missouri, that the region’s lack of highly-skilled technology workers cost it a spot on the final list, according to Tim Cowden, CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council. Ouch.

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If you look at the list of key attributes, put together by the Associated Press following the announcement of the finalists, Dallas and Fort Worth stack up pretty well.

But, according to some, Fort Worth’s plans for becoming HQ2 for the e-commerce giant may get derailed for one very important reason: Transit. There, according to Paige Shipp, regional director of Metrostudy, a provider of primary and secondary market information to the housing and residential construction industry, the western side of the Metroplex doesn’t stack up. During a speech at the 2018 Greater Fort Worth Builders Association’s Economic Forecast presented by Lee Lighting on Jan. 25 at Ridglea Country Club, Shipp said she expects transportation issues to rule out several of the potential sites put forward in the joint bid submitted by a number of North Texas cities. She identified sites in Dallas County, such as Trinity Groves, Victory Park, Reunion, Oak Cliff, Plano and near the University of Texas at Dallas as likely locations. All have a solid transit component.

As you can read in our story by Craig McDaniel on page 10, the area is moving forward with some new transit options. But as anyone who has driven Interstate 35 north of Fort Worth in the past 5 years knows, improving traffic nightmares doesn’t happen overnight.

And local business leaders are making their voices heard. It’s not the first time. The 35W Coalition in north Fort Worth helped put a focus on improving access to the fast-growing Alliance area. That is finally bearing fruit.

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Now a new alliance is coming forth to push for “a more robust transit system for Fort Worth and Tarrant County.” The Tarrant Transit Alliance, supported by the Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth, among others, is planning to show up at the Jan. 30 Fort Worth City Council meeting to “make sure our transit systems stay a priority,” according to the group.

The organization points out that funding for the T, which operates the city’s bus service and some regional transportation independent from the city, comes from a half-cent sales tax approved by voters 34 years ago. Changing that formula won’t be easy.

In September 2017, the city was unable to generate sufficient support for a plan to expand bus service. So things are moving, if not on the tracks, to improve area transit.

Will it help land Amazon HQ2? Maybe not, but maybe we’ll get in the discussion. At the moment, on the Irish bookmaker site Paddy Power, the Dallas bid for Amazon’s has 20 to 1 odds, while Boston, where Charlie is still riding that M.T.A., has 2 to 1 odds. Austin, not exactly stunning in mass transit, by the way, has 11 to 2 odds.

Robert Francis is editor of the Fort Worth Business Press.

Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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