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Here’s Arlington’s (Failed) Pitch for Amazon HQ2

The city was offering Globe Life Park and nearly $1 billion in incentives to try and lure Amazon to North Texas.
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Here’s Arlington’s (Failed) Pitch for Amazon HQ2

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Arlington, one of the cities included in the Dallas Regional Chamber’s packaged bid for the most shameless corporate relocation sweepstakes in human history, is out of the running for Amazon’s HQ2. Spurned by Jeff Bezos, Arlington decided to release the details of its proposal this morning, giving us the best look we’ve had yet at the lengths North Texas cities are willing to go to lure the tech giant to town.

Turns out they’ll go pretty far. The city of Arlington was offering $921 million in incentives, including a “100 percent real and business personal property tax abatement” for 10 years, a grant for the company to hire Arlington residents, and the waiver of “building and impact fees.” Arlington was also offering a grant to help pay for redevelopment, and the creation of a municipal management district, which would allow for tax-exempt bonds to fund infrastructure for Amazon’s headquarters. Globe Life Park, which the Texas Rangers will abandon for the new Globe Life Field in 2020, was being sold as the center of a 200-acre site for Amazon’s new digs. Renderings, featured in the slideshow above, depict how this was envisioned.

The city, likely anticipating some dropped jaws at the reveal that it was offering nearly $1 billion in public money to a company worth something like $700 billion, included this in its news release:

The size of the performance-based incentive package directly correlated to the size of the investment being proposed by Amazon and would have only been fully implemented had Amazon fulfilled its commitment to invest $5 billion and create 50,000 high-paying jobs in Arlington. The expenses for the project would come from the revenue generated by the Amazon investment. The long-term economic impact of the headquarters and its job creation would have been transformative for our community.

Our 10-year economic model indicated this project could bring 96,000-plus permanent jobs, almost $50 billion in salaries and wages and almost $4 billion in taxable sales.

So why did Amazon, which apparently sent a team to visit Arlington in person, turn down the “American Dream City?” We don’t know, although the city’s “public transit,” a publicly subsidized ridesharing service called Via, doesn’t seem to meet Amazon’s demand for a city with a robust public transportation infrastructure. (Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams told reporters today that Amazon preferred a more developed urban environment, lending further credence to a report earlier this year in the Dallas Morning News that company reps favored downtown Dallas out of North Texas’ local options.)

Arlington’s decision to blow the lid off its end of Amazon’s extremely secretive selection process, before the company has picked a “winner,” raises other questions. We already knew that “Dallas,” one of the 20 finalists announced by Amazon, was shorthand for at least a handful of North Texas cities included in the regional bid. Have any other local contenders been told they’re no longer up for consideration? Just how much has the field narrowed? And if Arlington was willing to give up $1 billion, a number that does not include what is likely to be a generous offer from the state, how much is the city of Dallas putting on the line?

It would be ideal to have the details of each city’s bid for Amazon HQ2 beforehand. You know, to allow for public input on the use of public funds. Even more ideal, a world where an incentive arms race isn’t standard operating procedure for big corporate moves. But a little credit—like, the absolute bare minimum of credit—is due to Arlington for revealing its bid now that the city’s been relegated to the losers’ corner, even if this is sort of transparently being done in an effort to drum up interest in the Rangers’ old ballpark as the potential home of some other massive corporation looking to make a move. You can look through Arlington’s presentation yourself.

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