When Dallas means Denton: ‘Little D’ makes the cut for Amazon HQ2

AP

Denton isn’t Dallas, except when it is.

Amazon unveiled the 20 possible locations for its second headquarters Thursday morning, revealing Dallas and Austin among the Texas locations that made the cut.

Last year, Amazon invited metropolitan areas to work together on proposals for the company’s location search. The Dallas Regional Chamber took the lead for North Texas and submitted a combined proposal that included responses from Denton and other cities in the area.

In other words, the three possible Denton sites in Dallas’ pitch to Amazon still could be in the mix.

Caroline Booth, the director of economic development for the City of Denton.

“While it’s not really a surprise, it’s always good to see your name on the list,” said Caroline Booth, the city of Denton’s economic development director.

City leaders are not disclosing the sites that were offered in Denton. But The Dallas Morning News reported other sites in the regional proposal, including the old Valley View Mall in North Dallas, Victory Park in downtown Dallas and Panther Island in downtown Fort Worth.

Amazon promised about $5 billion in construction spending and 50,000 high-paying jobs would come with its second headquarters. The online retail giant is based in Seattle. The company also has warehouses and business hubs around the country.

Amazon received 238 responses to its unusual call for proposals. Company officials said the final selection will come later this year.

Most of the 20 cities are in the Midwest or on the East Coast. Los Angeles and Toronto also made the cut. In the South, Miami and Atlanta are being considered along with three proposals near the nation’s capital: Northern Virginia; Montgomery County, Maryland; and Washington, D.C.

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are on the list, making Pennsylvania the only other state besides Texas with multiple locations still under consideration.

"Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough," said Holly Sullivan, who oversees Amazon’s public policy. "All the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity."

The other contenders: Boston; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Denver; Indianapolis; Nashville, Tennessee; New York; Newark, New Jersey; and Raleigh, North Carolina.

"It’s a long list, for a shortlist," said Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed, an online job site.

Amazon may use the list to pit the locations against each other and get better tax breaks or incentives, Kolko said.

"It’s hard to say whether all these places are in play or Amazon wanted to encourage continued competition," Kolko said.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether locations would be able to change their proposals or offer better incentives, but it said in a statement it would "work with each of the candidate locations to dive deeper into their proposals."

As of midday Thursday, Denton had not yet heard from the regional chamber about what’s next for the city’s proposal.

“I know we’ll hear from them about next steps,” Booth said. “We anxiously await what to do.”

The company had stipulated it wanted to be near a metropolitan area with more than 1 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 the headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade.

But Amazon also made it very clear it wanted tax breaks, grants and any other incentives.

Some state and local governments have made public the details of the financial incentives they are dangling. Boston’s offer includes $75 million for affordable housing for Amazon employees and others. Before he left office Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie approved a measure to allow the state to offer up to $5 billion to Amazon. Newark also proposes to give Amazon $2 billion in tax breaks.

But Texas governments and state and local governments from many other states have refused to disclose to the Associated Press the tax breaks or other financial incentives they are offering.

Several said they don’t want their competitors to know what they’re offering, a stance that open-government advocates criticized.

In a prepared statement Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott didn’t say how the state is participating in the pitch to Amazon.

Instead, he touted the state’s workforce and its “low-tax and limited-regulation environment,” writing that Austin and Dallas "have proven themselves to be among the most sought after locations for companies looking to grow and thrive.”

Amazon plans to remain in its sprawling Seattle headquarters, and the second home base will be "a full equal" to it, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had said.

The extra space will help the rapidly growing company, which had nearly 542,000 employees at the end of September, a 77 percent jump from the year before. Some of that growth came from Amazon’s nearly $14 billion acquisition last year of natural foods grocer Whole Foods and its 89,000 employees.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881.

Here is the complete list of 20 finalists.

Montgomery County, Md.

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