Sunday, June 4, 2023 Jun 4, 2023
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Score One for Downtown Dallas in the Amazon Sweepstakes

If, and it's still a big if, Amazon decides to come to Dallas, it reportedly prefers downtown. This is why that matters.
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Following this week’s Dallas Morning News report that Amazon representatives visited Dallas last month as part of the company’s search for a second headquarters, it’s time to again read the tea leaves.

Amazon, which first announced its search with enough fanfare to ensure nearly every city in the country would debase itself for a shot at HQ2, has gone quiet since announcing the 20 finalists. The suits and politicians representing the finalists themselves are also required to keep their mouths shut during this secretive second phase. So the cottage industry of blog posts predicting Amazon’s decision is working in even darker conditions than before. Here’s what we do know.

Along with the Dallas visit, Amazon employees have also at least been to the Washington, D.C. area, Denver, and Toronto. That doesn’t mean much except that reporters in each of those regions are well-sourced enough to know about those visits—it seems possible, if not likely, that the company has already been to all of the other finalists as well.

The Denver Post was given the impression that Amazon doesn’t care too much about what time zone it lands in, which is good news for Dallas. The paper was also given the impression that Amazon places a special premium on legal protections for LGBT+ people, which is bad news for Dallas as long as it’s located in Texas. Others have speculated that Atlanta’s chances may have been dinged by the Georgia legislature’s decision to punish Delta after the airline cancelled a discount program for NRA members. The move by state lawmakers there could be seen as bad for business and for the socially progressive values Amazon head Jeff Bezos has sometimes espoused.

More and more oddsmakers are naming the D.C. area, which has three finalists (in D.C. itself, Montgomery County, Maryland, and northern Virginia), the frontrunner. Bezos already owns the Washington Post, he has a house in town, and as Amazon reaches its tentacles into every industry and facet of American life, the company may want to breathe more directly down the necks of federal regulators.

Still, Dallas is in the running, and there’s one other bit from the Morning News report that’s worth focusing on. Although Dallas has kept details of its bid secret, the Regional Chamber reportedly submitted sites across the region. (It’s unclear to me whether Frisco went rogue.) Amazon was not interested in any of the sites scattered across North Texas’ ample sprawl, however. (Sorry, Valley View). Instead, if Amazon comes to Dallas, it’s probably coming downtown.

Is this another blow against regionalism, as it’s currently conceived and as it’s driven Dallas policy-makers for decades? At the least, it seems to be further evidence that a vibrant downtown and well-connected urban core are good for business.

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