Seattle-based Amazon announced it’s seeking a second headquarters location in North America where it could eventually employ as many as 50,000 people. Alan Diaz AP
Seattle-based Amazon announced it’s seeking a second headquarters location in North America where it could eventually employ as many as 50,000 people. Alan Diaz AP

Fort Worth

Fort Worth, Dallas to join bidding war for second Amazon headquarters

By Andrea Ahles

aahles@star-telegram.com

September 07, 2017 04:51 PM

UPDATED September 07, 2017 08:59 PM

Fort Worth wants to be on Amazon’s wish list as the online retail giant searches for a second corporate headquarters location.

City leaders said Thursday they are putting together an economic development package after the Seattle-based company invited proposals from cities and states for a headquarters campus that could employ as many as 50,000 and bring $5 billion in investment. In essence, the fast-growing company has launched a bidding war across North America.

“We’re looking at all the different options on the table,” said Brandom Gengelbach, executive vice president of economic development at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. He said the chamber staff was “thoroughly reviewing and understanding the [request for proposal] and developing a response to represent Fort Worth in the best light.”

Gengelbach said he had already spoken with state officials and local real estate partners to determine if there are incentives and potential sites that will work for Amazon.

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In an announcement early Thursday, Amazon said it is looking at metropolitan areas with more than a million residents with business-friendly environments for the new corporate complex, which would complement its fast-growing home office in Seattle.

The company also wants to be within 45 minutes of an international airport, have access to mass transit and have room for expand to as much as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade.

That would make the new complex about equal to its existing home office, which has 33 buildings with about 40,000 employees. The new site could be either in urban or suburban settings.

The company is also looking for tax breaks, grants and other incentives. A section of the proposal that outlines those says “the initial cost and the ongoing cost of doing business are critical decision drivers.”

“Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in upfront and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs,” said Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. “We’re excited to find a second home.”

The competition for the massive project is certain to be fierce. On Thursday, New York, Toronto, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Mo., Atlanta and Detroit all indicated they would bid for the project. Cities have until Oct. 19 to submit a proposal and Amazon expects to make a decision by the end of the year.

Fort Worth already has a business relationship with Amazon, which has fulfillment centers in north Fort Worth and Haslet, as well as facilities for its grocery business. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said Alliance Airport, with a newly expanded runway that can transport fully-loaded cargo planes to Asia, could be a selling point for Amazon.

“We’d love to have them,” Price said. “We’d love to have another headquarters.”

Bezos is familiar with Fort Worth. His sister lived in the area in the late 1990s, he told the Star-Telegram in an interview in 2000, and he would visit her and always stop by Joe T. Garcia’s restaurant so he could stock up on jars of salsa.

“I have sat out on that patio even on days when it must have been 107 degrees,” Bezos said in the interview. “One of the reasons they are so good is because they have a limited selection, so they really focus on those enchiladas just like we focus on e-commerce.”

With XTO Energy announcing earlier this year that it will move its headquarters and 1,600 employees out of downtown Fort Worth, local leaders would love to see the empty office space filled by another corporation. However, Price said she’s not sure if the vacant office space downtown would fit Amazon’s needs.

Amazon is asking local governments to submit one proposal per metropolitan statistical area, which means that Dallas-Fort Worth would initially present a proposal for the region, said Robert Sturns, Fort Worth’s economic development director.

Sturns said the city has not narrowed down a list of potential sites that meet Amazon’s criteria, which calls for at least 100 acres and 500,000 square feet of office space. Fort Worth has over 70,000 acres of undeveloped available land.

“There are obviously some sites far north Fort Worth that would work and there are a few in southwest Fort Worth that could work,” Stuurns said. “Those will probably be our two strongest options, but I don’t think we’re taking anything off the table.”

Dallas-Fort Worth was a finalist in 2001 when Boeing, at the time also based in Seattle, launched a search for a new corporate home. The region’s leaders pitched the benefits of North Texas and Boeing considered several sites in the Metroplex, but in the end relocated to downtown Chicago.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings expects the region to work together to bid for Amazon.

“Amazon, obviously, is the best of the best and we want to make sure that we show well first as a region and then second as a city,” Rawlings said, noting that Amazon may have specific real estate requirements that might eliminate some North Texas cities.

The Dallas Regional Chamber said it has “communicated” to Amazon that it will submit a response to the company’s request for proposals.

“We are reviewing the [request for proposal] and look forward to showcasing for Amazon the many reasons why there is no better place than right here for Amazon’s HQ2,” Mike Rosa, the chamber’s senior vice president of economic development, said in a statement.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @andreaahles