North Texas a top contender? Choices: Amazon says it got 238 entries for 2nd headquarters

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Amazon will be sorting through 238 proposals from cities and regions in the United States, Canada and Mexico that are hoping to land the company’s second headquarters and the investment it’ll bring.

The online had retailer kicked off its hunt for a second home base in September, promising 50,000 new jobs and construction spending of more than $5 billion. Proposals were due Oct. 18, and Amazon made clear that tax breaks and grants would be a big factor in deciding what entry prevails. Inc. did not specify which cities or metro areas applied, but many of the locations have made their interest public. The company said Oct. 23 the proposals came from 43 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, as well as three Mexican states and six Canadian provinces.

In a tweet, the company said it was “excited to review each of them.”

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Among those it will be reviewing is a joint proposal from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The submittal fulfills Amazon’s request for a single response from a large Metropolitan Statistical Area such as the Dallas Fort Worth region.

“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 goal is to make it to the next phase of the process, said Brandom Gengelbach, executive vice president of economic development for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

“So, we’re not going to win the project with this submittal, we’re going to get into the ‘yes’ pile.”

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The process was an historic opportunity for the North Texas area to work together to showcase the region, he said.

“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,” he said.

While some have pointed to transportation as an Achilles heel for North Texas, Gengelbach said the area addressed those issues in its proposal to Amazon.

“[T]he big thing that we talk about in our RFP [request for proposal] is that we’re really at the cutting edge of transit moving forward,” he said. “We’ve got Uber Elevate, we’ve got driverless cars that are being tested out in Arlington. So, we can work with Amazon, we can work with other companies, really, to drive the future of transit as it relates to our region.”

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Gengelbach said he thought North Texas’ attributes would make it a top contender for the highly-sought Amazon second headquarters.

“I talked to my fellow economic developers all across the country, and certainly there’s been people going doing good things, but, I would put our chances at the top because of the size and scope of the project,” he said.

“We’re 7.2 million people. This is 50,000 jobs we’re talking about, this is not a small facility, this is a large city that’s coming to the area. I can’t think of too many regions that can absorb that type of growth without completely causing headaches, and growth is our middle name in Dallas-Fort Worth,” Gengelbach said.

Besides looking for financial incentives, Amazon had stipulated that it wanted to be near a metropolitan area with more than a million people; be able to attract top technical talent; be within 45 minutes of an international airport; have direct access to mass transit; and be able to expand that headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade.

But that didn’t stop some apparent long shots from applying. A bid came from Alaska, according to Amazon, though the entire state has a population below a million.

“Most of the 238 probably lack some of those big-city advantages,” said Jed Kolko, the chief economist at job site Indeed. But most places probably could not pass up the chance of getting 50,000 jobs, “even if the odds of winning are low,” he said.

Although generous tax breaks and other incentives can erode a city’s tax base, Amazon’s headquarters could draw even more tech businesses along with their well-educated, highly paid employees.

In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie has endorsed Newark’s bid, saying the state and the city are planning nearly $7 billion in tax breaks.

Detroit bid organizers have said its proposal offers Amazon the unique chance to set up shop in both the U.S. and Canada.

Missouri officials proposed an innovation corridor between Kansas City and St. Louis rather than a single location.

The seven U.S. states that Amazon said did not apply were: Arkansas, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming.

Ahead of the deadline, some cities turned to stunts to try and stand out: Representatives from Tucson, Arizona, sent a 21-foot tall cactus to Amazon’s Seattle headquarters; New York lit the Empire State Building orange to match Amazon’s smile logo.

The company plans to remain in its sprawling Seattle headquarters and the second one will be “a full equal” to it, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in September. Amazon has said that it will announce a decision sometime next year.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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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