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DFW takes low-key approach to Amazon HQ2 decision-makers

Cities across the country are ratcheting up their lobbying efforts for Amazon’s second headquarters, although it appears that Dallas-Fort Worth is taking a more low-key approach than most.

Fast-growing Amazon is evaluating 238 bids it received from communities, including DFW, that are interested in welcoming the company’s second headquarters, or HQ2. Seattle-based Amazon plans to decide where to locate its second headquarters campus sometime next year.

The e-commerce behemoth will employ 50,000 people with an average salary of $100,000 or more at the new campus. The company plans $5 billion of infrastructure investment over 8 million square feet, and the first buildings are scheduled to open in 2019.

Mayors, developers, chambers of commerce and other boosters coast to coast are salivating over the possibility of landing the deal — so much so that many are lobbying Amazon in unusual ways.

Some are clever. Others border on shamelessly desperate.

— Stonecrest, Georgia, on Wednesday announced a digital ad campaign in which Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and other Amazon employees will get ads on their smartphones and other devices reminding them of the Atlanta suburb’s standing offer to de-annex 345 acres of land and hand it over to Amazon cost free. Included is the option of making Bezos mayor of this new city.

— Economic development boosters from Sacramento reportedly are spending $150,000 on a social media ad campaign targeting Amazon employees. That means when they scroll through Facebook, for example, the employees see testimonials about the quality of life or other perks in the California capitol.

— Philadelphia plastered Seattle buses with variations of its brotherly love slogan, such as “City of Foodie Love” and “City of Rooftop Love.”

— North Carolina also used buses as a canvas to tout inventions — including the bar code — to come out of the state.

For its part, North Texas is largely eschewing the gimmicky stuff. Officials from the Dallas Regional Chamber, which submitted a unified regional proposal containing over 30 possible locations in more than a dozen DFW cities, is standing pat with its official Amazon HQ2 submission.

“The DFW Region’s submittal comprehensively responded to and addressed each and every criteria Amazon outlined in their RFP,” chamber spokesman Darren Grubb said. “Amazon is one of the savviest and most sophisticated companies in the world and driven by data and information.”

The chamber said in a statement that the DFW regional submission “tells our region’s story in a very compelling and dynamic and direct way.”

“We responded accordingly, as we believe our regional data speaks for itself and highlights our impressive record of success in attracting and growing companies; our deep and rich talent pool, particularly our tech workforce; our low cost environment; and the optionality this region provides to suit Amazon’s needs.”

Brandom Gengelbach, executive director of economic development with the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, said ithe Amazon race amounts to a waiting game, at least for now. Gengelbach and the Fort Worth Chamber worked with the Dallas Regional Chamber on the proposal.

“We’re in a holding pattern with everyone else in the country, a wait-and-see, and we eagerly are looking forward to hearing back from Amazon and what next steps that might be,” Gengelbach told the Dallas Business Journal in an interview. “Like any economic development project, you don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re hoping to make it to the next round of activity whatever that might look like.”

Amazon’s search has been an unconventional process because of its openness, and the path forward is uncertain as well, Gengelbach said.

“I’ve seen projects like this that have been put on the back burner for years,” he said. “I’ve seen projects that change in scope based on changing market conditions or based on legislative issues or the politics of what’s going on in a particular region. So nothing is given at all.”

Dallas-Fort Worth’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters did include a regional marketing video trumpeting North Texas’ attributes. The 2-minute video touts DFW’s vibe, its tacos and margaritas, its cost of living, and its family friendliness. It shows an American Airlines plane in takeoff, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, the Dallas skyline and construction sites around the region, along with pep talks by the mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth.

Some North Texas cities, including Frisco, also released promotional videos, although those came out before or on the Oct. 19 deadline for bid submissions.

The North Texas bid included an incentive of an undisclosed amount from the state as well as site-specific incentives from the cities or counties where each of the projects is located, chamber officials have said. Those incentives have not been released publicly. Some communities across the country have made their incentive packages public, but most have not.

Amazon received an abundance of information on potential North Texas sites. They include downtown Dallas skyscrapers, Victory Park near American Airlines Center, the Midtown development in North Dallas, multiple locations in Collin County, one on the University of Texas at Dallas campus and another that could be at the station of the planned bullet train connecting Dallas and Houston.

In Tarrant County, potential sites include a future Trinity River development north of downtown Fort Worth, and 800 acres in Grapevine on Dallas Fort Worth International Airport property.

SOURCE: Dallas Business Journal