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North Texas Applies For Amazon's Second Headquarters, But Details Remain Scarce

Christopher Connelly
Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke discusses the North Texas bid for Amazon's second headquarters at a regional chamber of commerce luncheon.

Amazon set off a big, public scramble when it announced last month it was looking for sites for a second North American headquarters.

It’s quite a prize: The e-commerce giant expects the new HQ to house up to 50,000 workers with salaries averaging $100,000, and it plans to spend billions of dollars building it. Thursday was the deadline to submit proposals, and North Texas has high hopes to land the company.

“I’m confident we’ve shared with Amazon all the things that have made this region a great place for corporate headquarters location,” Mike Rosa from the Dallas Regional Chamber said in a news release.

The proposal came with a video touting the region, apparently on the theme of “&” – as in “Amazon & DFW.” In the video, inspiring music plays over shots of iconic landmarks like Reunion Tower, the Fort Worth Stockyards, AT&T Stadium. People hold up signs with an ampersand and a handwritten word to describe North Texas.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price picked "&VIBRANT."

“I love D-FW because it’s vibrant,” Price says in the video. “If you can’t find it here, you can’t find it anywhere in the world.”

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings chose “&EASY” because, he tells the camera, “It’s easy. It’s a great place to live.”

Others point to innovation, acceptance, low cost of living, education and margaritas.

All of the hype leaves many questions

Officials are tight-lipped about the details of the Dallas-Fort Worth proposal. Economic development proposals are usually quiet affairs, but Amazon gives the competition for its second headquarters a bit of reality TV flair.

Competition is expected to be fierce among American cities, but Amazon won’t go just anywhere. The company said it wants a metro with more than a million people, an educated workforce, good schools and strong public transit.

The company’s also very interested in tax credits and other financial enticements, which critics have argued could leave cities on the hook for building infrastructure to host the massive development but not bringing in enough cash to pay for it all. It’s too early to know how much money North Texas is willing to throw at Amazon.

It’s also not clear how many potential sites that the Dallas-Fort Worth proposal contained. Communities across North Texas have been laying out the case for a host of locations.

In Dallas, those include Trinity Groves just west of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, north Oak Cliff, Deep Ellum and Exposition Park. In Fort Worth, leaders have said Panther Island, the massive project north of downtown, would be a great site for Amazon. And there’s been a push from throughout the Mid-Cities and cities in Collin County as well. Frisco even made its own video a month ago.

Making adjustments to fit the bill

Amazon also gave a fairly short timeframe – just six weeks – for metro areas to make a pitch for such a massive development. Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke says it’s forced cities across the region ask important questions about its competitiveness.

“How strong is your tech work force? How strong is your transit system?” Cooke said. “And so those are areas that we have to look at ourselves and say 'Are there areas we need to be improving on both on the education side or the transit side?'”

On transit, Cooke says there’s room for improvement, especially on the Fort Worth side. But he says the region’s transit network is growing.

Brandom Gengelbach from the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce said he thinks the region’s actually doing pretty well.

“From a D-FW perspective, I would put our transit against everyone,” Gengelbach said.

Maybe not the big, big cities like New York or Chicago, he conceded, but Gengelbach said the region is competitive with smaller, big cities like Nashville or Cincinnati or Indianapolis.

“The big thing that we talked about in our RFP is we’re really at the cutting edge of transit moving forward,” Gengelbach said. “We’ve got Uber Elevate; we’ve got driverless cars being tested in Arlington. And we can work with Amazon. We can work with other companies really to drive the future of transit when it has to do with our region.”

Amazon hasn’t said much about its timeline. Gingelbach says the next step is finding out whether North Texas makes the shortlist to host the headquarters.