A word of caution to DFW’s regional leaders regarding the Amazon HQ bid war: Way back in 2001, Dallas-area business leaders launched a blitz to win the headquarters of Boeing, but it ultimately lost out to Chicago. A few years after the fact, a former Boeing CEO told a group of Collin County business leaders that one of the reasons Boeing stayed away from DFW was because too many of the communities and cities within the region were fighting with each other for the location of the corporation’s headquarters:
“They were spending more time throwing rocks at each other than they were saying ‘You really want to come here,’ ” [former-CEO Phil] Condit said. “There’s a lot to be said for working together to accomplish things.”
Flash forward, and it looks like the DFW region hasn’t learned the lesson. A few weeks ago, Amazon made a splashy request for potential location bids for the location of its second corporate headquarters, and DFW cities have begun to throw their hats in the ring, even though there are risks related to this kind of intra-regional squabble for the corporate version of Cinderella’s glass slipper.
One is that the Seattle-based corporation might be scared away from DFW if, like Boeing, it doesn’t want to deal with the regional politics of picking a princess. The other is that the images of the region projected by videos like the one Frisco made — which show the mayor cradling a football at the Dallas Cowboy’s new Star facility while garbling lines like “Frisco is a deal maker” and Frisco “thinks outside the box,” against images of a kid grinding at the town’s skatepark — may not be match what Amazon’s looking for, and they may write-off the whole region as a result. After all, when you look at the videos Amazon has made to recruit employees to their current location, they dwell on things like Seattle’s access to mountains, hiking , food, seafood, and biking to work in a cosmopolitan city. How could DFW best compete with that?
Enter a new proposal drafted by the Deep Ellum Foundation. The neighborhood group has located a spot just to the west of Exposition Blvd. and adjacent to Fair Park that it believes best satisfies the expectations laid out in Amazon’s request for proposals. In an email, Deep Ellum Foundation Executive Director Jessica Burnham explains that, unlike some of the suburban bids, the Expo Park site offers available land for infill development that can accommodate both new buildings and adaptive reuse of historic structures. It would be located adjacent to a vibrant urban neighborhood, accessible to rail and trails, and have Fair Park at its door step.
For Dallas, the benefits of such a location are obvious. An Amazon HQ2 located at the entrance of Fair Park could help revitalize the park, and it would bring tons of jobs right to the edge of South Dallas. The plans also show how a redevelopment of the area could tie into the CityMAP plans for lowering I-30 and could be accomplished within current zoning.
For Amazon, the location offers the kind of walkable, vibrant, urban environment that the company knows it needs to recruit employees, while also situating the new headquarters a short skip away from a major continental distribution and logistics center: the Inland Port project in southern Dallas. Rope in easy access to the Trinity River and Trinity Forest, and while it isn’t exactly kayaking on the Puget Sound or snowboarding at Mt. Baker, it starts to look like what Amazon might actually be looking for in a new home.
A proposed central location of the new Amazon headquarters, like the idea of placing it in Expo Park, both represents DFW’s best shot at landing the Amazon headquarters and happens to be the most advantageous location for maximizing the headquarters’ impact on promoting regional sustainable growth, mobility, and access to jobs. In other words, there is a strong regional argument to be made that the best place to locate Amazon in North Texas would be at the center of the region.
But then, that’s the irony of this idea of regionalism. It’s never really about supporting the strength and sustainability of the region, but, rather, about reaping the short-term benefits and advantages created by cannibalistic competition between the region’s individual, single-minded member cities.