Dallas, Fort Worth, area leaders woo Amazon HQ2

Amazon cover

It’s in.

The DFW Region has submitted a unified response to Amazon’s request for proposal (RFP) for the location of its second headquarters, known as HQ2. The submittal fulfills Amazon’s request for a single response from a large Metropolitan Statistical Area such as the Dallas Fort Worth region.

“This was an historic opportunity for all DFW-area communities to work together, leverage all of our assets and showcase our region,” said Brandom Gengelbach, executive vice president of economic development for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. “For multiple cities to collaborate for such a prize is quite a feat, and we are confident we can build on relationships and use all the regional information that was compiled to give us an advantage in future projects.”

Retail e-commerce giant Amazon has outgrown its Seattle headquarters and let the country know it’s looking for a second home. The prospect of investments topping $5 billion and 50,000 jobs has cities across the U.S. and Canada pulling out all the stops – including economic incentives – to woo the e-commerce behemoth.

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“It’s always great to pursue opportunities like this with the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, and the professionals that conduct economic development for our regional cities,” said Mike Rosa, senior vice president of economic development at the Dallas Regional Chamber. “Working together, we’ve had a lot of success bringing new jobs, companies and investment here. I’m confident we’ve shared with Amazon all the things that have made this region a great place for corporate headquarters location.”

The cities of DFW put forth many sites that meet or exceed Amazon’s requirements, all of which were included in the DFW Region’s submittal.

Among the sites that have been mentioned are Fort Worth’s Panther Island development, downtown Dallas, Irving, Arlington and Richardson’s Telecom Corridor. Sort of an “If you like, Irving, you may also like Panther Island,” suggestion.

The submittal also includes a secure and custom-built map-based website, for Amazon only, that contains both the regional response and individual city responses.

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The submittal is designed so that Amazon can review both regional and city-specific answers to the criteria requirements outlined in the RFP. In addition, a regional marketing video was created.

Other cities in Texas are also bidding for the site, including Houston and Austin. But not the Alamo city.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff on Oct. 11 announced the area was no longer bidding for the Amazon project, saying the public process was creating a bidding war among states and cities.

In Austin, Mike Berman, a spokesman for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, says the region is especially appealing to Amazon because it’s the kind of place where everybody can fit in.

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“Austin is cool and innovative and extremely accepting and diverse,” he said.

Amazon already has a large presence in the area, including about 3,000 workers at a distribution center in nearby San Marcos, Berman said. Amazon also recently purchased Austin-based Whole Foods.

But beyond a vibrant economy and a growing population of qualified workers — it’s a great place to live, Berman said.

“It’s an exceptional quality of life. Live music, festivals, sports, parks, lakes, biking. We’re a big foodie friendly community,” he said. “It’s a very active and easy-going lifestyle, 300 days of sunshine, very pleasant.”

Bob Harvey, president & CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, praised community and individual efforts following Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall Aug. 25 in Texas and dumped record rainfall that swamped parts of Houston.

“I think the world saw Houston at its best in the local recovery efforts,” Harvey said. “People did see a community that’s unique in its ability to respond to an emergency.”

Those are the kind of people Amazon might want to hire, “people you might want on hand,” Harvey said.

Coastal communities are having to react to a pattern of increased rainfall and more severe tropical disturbances, with Houston making commitments to improve its infrastructure and storm surge protection, he said.

Harvey also noted Houston’s quality of life built on “being a fun city” with affordable housing and a reputation for diversity. Professional sports, great restaurants and an appealing nightlife add to the attraction, he said.

The area boasts a STEM-educated and technical workforce, along with a concentration of 58 medical institutions — billed as the largest medical center in the world — and two medical schools, Harvey said.

“At the end of the day, Texas is a business-friendly state, a great place to locate a growing business,” he said.

The Fort Worth Chamber’s Gengelbach said the bidding for the Amazon headquarters was not unusual for economic development groups, except that it was done in the public eye.

“I’m not used to being on a stage in the spotlight,” said Gengelbach. “Usually we do this in secret. Not the case this time.”