Dallas Mayor Says Education Improvement Needed After Amazon Snub

Chamber says other companies interested in Dallas sites

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings called on state leaders to boost education spending after he says weak education contributed to Amazon snubbing Dallas for its second headquarters.

"This is imperative for our state to do it," Rawlings said. "If our state does not do this, then we will not compete with these cities."

After a 15-month selection process for its 50,000-employee second headquarters, Seattle-based Amazon officially named New York City and the Washington D.C. area Tuesday as locations for a split HQ2. Another HQ2 finalist, Nashville, Tennessee, will receive a 5,000-employee Amazon office.

Tuesday morning, Amazon officially selected New York City and Northern Virginia for two new headquarters, and Nashville to host an operations center, ending a year-long courtship by cities and metropolitan areas across North America.

Rawlings said Amazon executives visited Dallas twice and he thought his city had a very good shot.

Looking down at the city from a Reunion Tower breakfast in August, Rawlings said Amazon executives were excited about a possible campus that would include the former Reunion Arena site, Union Station, the former Dallas Morning News building, vacant land south of city hall and along Riverfront Boulevard adjacent to a planned high-speed rail station for service to Houston.

"We had a hand of cards that was really remarkable from a real estate standpoint," Rawlings said.

North Texas offered Amazon good airports, a rail transit system, a relatively low cost of doing business and lower cost of housing for employees. Rawlings said Amazon offered to include affordable housing construction in a Dallas campus and assistance for homeless people.

The Dallas bid to Amazon included $600 million in tax breaks and other incentives over a 10-year period. That's less than half of what the east coast cities offered, but Rawlings said incentives were not the deciding factor.

Retail giant Amazon has selected New York City and Northern Virginia as its second and third headquarters, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday night.

Rawlings said Amazon executives called Tuesday morning to say there were two big strikes against Dallas: Amazon's need for an East Coast presence and a sufficient supply of qualified workers.

"The talent they could get immediately was there in the two locations they chose," Rawlings said.

Southern Methodist University business professor Mike Davis said Amazon needed the East Coast for political reasons that may outweigh typical business decisions.

"We should be honest about this even is Amazon isn't honest about this," Davis said. "They are right near all the lobbyists in Washington and they're going to need those lobbyists. They are right near the media in New York City and they're going to need that media.”

Davis said North Texas had a tech work force superior to Northern Virginia.

"We're no worse off today than we were yesterday. This is still a really strong area for growth," Davis said.

Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce officials who participated in courting Amazon said they were already working with other possible suitors for the very same Dallas locations.

"We're used to winning. So of course we are disappointed. But we don't have time to be disappointed," chamber CEO Dale Petrosky said.

Chamber vice president Mike Rosa said other companies may be more interested in Dallas after it placed so high on Amazon's list.

"I expect the phone to be ringing and I expect when we outreach to targeted companies that they will be even more receptive than they were a day before," Rosa said.

No other single corporate project has ever matched the size of Amazon's HQ2 plan, which could have instantly transformed the big vacant spaces in Dallas.

"There never has been," Rawlings said. "It will be a long time before somebody comes of this size."

Rawlings said Amazon people told him Tuesday they may reconsider Dallas in the future.

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