Hundreds of communities across the U.S. are pulling out the stops to lure the Seattle-based retailer as the deadline approaches in one of the most public civic competitions in years. Amazon has given cities until Thursday to submit their best offers.

In New Jersey, state and city leaders ponied up $7 billion in tax incentives to woo digital retailing giant Amazon's second corporate headquarters to Newark.

Chicago's already submitted its bid for the 50,000-employee corporate campus that's one of the most coveted economic development prizes ever.

Washington, D.C., has publicly identified four sites it's pitching to Amazon for the office complex that could eventually grow to 8 million square feet.

And in Chula Vista, Calif., city leaders published a 48-page "Welcome Home Amazon" book and tucked in $400 million to catch Amazon's eye.

Hundreds of communities across the U.S. are pulling out the stops to lure the Seattle-based retailer as the deadline approaches in one of the most public civic competitions in years. Amazon has given cities until Thursday to submit their best offers.

In North Texas, real estate developers and communities have cobbled together more than three dozen potential properties where Amazon could plant its flag.

The Dallas Regional Chamber, which is coordinating the region's effort, won't say exactly how many locations it's forwarding to Amazon, even though many developers and cities have been candid about their proposals.

While other U.S. metro areas are touting their bids, Dallas' economic development officials are playing it close to the vest.

"As is customary when the Dallas Regional coordinates a regional response to a large economic development project, we do not publicly share any information about the request for proposals," chamber senior vice president Darren Grubb said in an email.

That's standard for most hush-hush corporate moves, but everything about the Amazon headquarters deal is out of the ordinary. Rarely is a major corporation so transparent about what it wants and expects with a big corporate move.
"This is a different type of process," said Cushman & Wakefield vice chairman Randy Cooper. "Usually, it's all kept top secret."

Cooper ought to know. He worked with State Farm Insurance to locate its 10,000-employee regional headquarters in Richardson's CityLine district.

Opening up Amazon's headquarters search as a competition is "a little messy," Cooper said, but he likes the idea of a horse race.

"It gives everybody an opportunity," he said. "You get the competitive juices flowing and the municipalities duking it out.

"I think Amazon already has in mind a few locations that make sense," Cooper said. "But I think they will keep an open mind."

For Dallas-Fort Worth, the regional chamber will submit a "single, unified regional response to Amazon by the Thursday deadline," Grubb said.

"We worked very closely with the Fort Worth chamber and our other regional economic development partners throughout this process, and we're excited for the opportunity to showcase to Amazon why the D-FW region is the best place in the country to live, work, and do business," he added.
Amazon will get acres of material to dig through in evaluating the North Texas sites. They include everything from downtown Dallas locations to tracts of land in Oak Cliff and near Fair Park.

There are suburban offerings on LBJ Freeway, at the University of Texas at Dallas campus and multiple locations in Collin County. As with the nationwide contest, some suburbs are bragging about their attributes. Frisco made a video to market itself and the five or six potential Amazon locations it identified.
Some real estate developers are privately grousing that Amazon will be buried with D-FW sites and favor limiting the proposal to just a few locations. But they also acknowledge that's a non-starter for economic development executives who are trying to represent the entire region.
"We received qualified site submittals from many regional cities, all of which will be included in our response to Amazon," Grubb said. "In addition, as part of our role as regional coordinator, the Dallas Regional Chamber provided regional data and information to provide connective tissue and to help share our story in a comprehensive way."

Regardless of the number or quality of the sites, people who help companies select suitable locations believe D-FW has a legitimate shot at landing Amazon HQ2.

"The fundamentals are so strong here I have to think we are a contender," Cooper said.

He expects Amazon to cut the universe of bids to a short list of cities that meet its needs before digging deeper. The final answer could come quicker than some expect.
"The bigger the deal is the quicker they move," Cooper said. "The bigger the transaction, the higher level the decision-maker you are dealing with."

Economic development directors — who are paid to think positive — expect the region to make it past the first round.

"I'm very confident that North Texas will be invited to respond to the next round of Amazon's site selection process," said Bill Sproull, president and CEO of the Richardson Chamber of Commerce. "We meet or exceed all their requirements. Whether we make it into the final round is anybody's guess."

North Texas has been one of the hottest relocation markets in the country, attracting more than 60,000 new residents last year. Besides winning Toyota's North American headquarters in 2014, D-FW also scored big with major office employment centers for Liberty Mutual Insurance and JPMorgan Chase.

"I believe lightning can strike in the same place twice," said Sally Bane, executive director of Plano's economic development agency.

Beth Bowman, president of the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce, said North Texas checks off all the boxes Amazon identified in its must-haves.

"We have the central location, ideal climate, workforce, infrastructure and lifestyle amenities that we expect to put us on the short list of contenders," she said. "The unknown factors are incentives."

Presented by Dallas Morning News, October 19, 2017

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