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A Splash of Cold Water on Dallas’ Amazon HQ2 Hopes

Dallas-Fort Worth's bid for the tech giant's second headquarters is in. But let's manage our expectations.
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Despite some speculation that the fix is in, and that actually landing Amazon’s coveted second headquarters would be more curse than blessing, the Dallas Regional Chamber today took its shot. It took at least 30 shots, in fact, with dozens of sites in North Texas doing their best to woo the tech giant in the Dallas-Fort Worth packaged bid. For better or worse, wherever Jeff Bezos decides to plant the Amazon flag, a city will transform.

We’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks weighing the pros and cons of Amazon building its HQ2 here. We’ve also looked at North Texas’ odds. Watching the video the Dallas Regional Chamber submitted with its bid, a much more appealing visual aid than Frisco’s own highlight reel, it feels like a sure thing. How could Amazon say no to promises of tacos and business-friendly innovation, diversity and family, to sweeping shots of skylines and bridges and airplanes?

After watching that video, we may need to splash a little cold water on our hopes. Manage our expectations. A report from Moody’s Analytics, ranking major cities based on the criteria in Amazon’s request for HQ2 proposals, does just that. Dallas does just fine on “business environment,” the study citing the region’s job growth and “generous use of business incentives.” Along with Austin and Nashville, Dallas finishes there among the top three metro areas.

But when it comes to “human capital,” “cost,” “quality of life,” and “transportation,” Dallas disappears from the top of the rankings. Here’s the final top 10 in the report, Dallas conspicuously absent:

It should be noted that, for this report, analysts made a distinction between the Dallas metro area, lumping the city in with Plano and Irving, and Fort Worth, which was grouped with Arlington. Dallas-Plano-Irving came in 34th, Fort Worth-Arlington was ranked 55th. This probably shortchanges the region as a whole, and doesn’t really address the Dallas vs. Fort Worth showdown that could occur if Amazon chooses North Texas.

But it does drive home the same flaws that have been pointed out elsewhere, the problems that may keep a corporate behemoth like Amazon from choosing Dallas as a home. There’s Dallas’ well-documented woes with public transportation and DART. There’s the fact that while tacos and margaritas are among the many charms of living in North Texas, the quality of life here can’t beat those amenities that educated millennials love in places like Seattle and San Francisco. Our major universities, impressive as they might be, can’t match the education infrastructure of somewhere like, say, Boston. While North Texas is home to a growing tech workforce, it still has a long way to go to catch up with the Silicon cities of the country.

Moody’s analysis is just one of many floated since Amazon first announced its Most HQ-Friendly City in North America Pageant. Dallas has been a contender in a number of estimations. Other cities touted as likely destinations, notably Denver, were snubbed in the Moody’s rankings. The only person with any real knowledge of where Amazon will go spent today smashing champagne bottles at a wind farm.

This is where we shrug, throw up our hands, and wait to see what Amazon decides.

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