Austin and Dallas are among 20 North American metropolitan areas being considered for a second headquarters for Amazon, the online retail giant announced Thursday morning.
The cities were among several in Texas that had been competing to lure the company. Competition has been fierce, since Amazon says it plans to invest $5 billion in its new headquarters and create "as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs" in the city it picks.
Thursday's list eliminates two major Texas cities — Houston and El Paso — that were also vying for the spot. Despite initial plans to do so, San Antonio did not submit a bid to host the company's second headquarters. City officials told Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in October that "blindly giving away the farm isn't our style."
Tiny Milam County also submitted a bid to the company, but was left off the short list.
In its initial ask, Amazon told candidate cities it was looking to build in a city of 1 million residents with easy access to mass transit, close proximity to an international airport, a diverse metro population and attractive recreational opportunities. The company has also made clear that financial incentives that lower operating costs will be a heavy consideration.
In a statement Thursday morning, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, boasted that Texas can accommodate all those preferences.
"Texas is a hotbed for the tech industry, and both Austin and Dallas have proven themselves to be among the most sought after locations for companies looking to grow and thrive," he said. "When industry leaders like Amazon consider investing in the Lone Star State, they know that our our low-tax and limited-regulation environment will appeal to a company’s bottom line."
The Dallas-area bid included more than two dozen cities in the North Texas area, including Frisco. Brandom Gengelbach, executive vice president of economic development for the Fort Worth Chamber, said all those localities are still in the running. Austin's application spanned Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties.
Gengelbach said he expects to sit down with Amazon officials in the coming weeks to discuss next steps in the process and seek further information about the company's needs.
"We're going to stand together, ready, willing and able as a region to answer their questions and partner with them," Gengelbach said Thursday. "We have a strong labor force, we have the abilities to move products and services and people through our highways and through our great airport, we have a low cost of business and great universities."
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings tweeted Thursday that he's "thrilled" Dallas is still being considered for the site.
Thrilled to be in the next round of @amazon HQ2 process. There’s much work left to be done but I want to thank my fellow mayors, @DRChamber, @FTWChamber and all our citizens for making @CityOfDallas and DFW such a desirable place to be!— Mike Rawlings (@Mike_Rawlings) January 18, 2018
In a brief statement Thursday morning, Austin Mayor Steve Adler recognized that "mobility and affordability" are among the city's greatest challenges in attracting businesses like Amazon, and said the city council is focused on addressing those two concerns.
Cities across North America have offered major economic incentives in attempts to lure Amazon, including tax breaks and land. And while some cities have publicly offered up their proposals to the tech giant — New Jersey, for example, has pledged up to $7 billion in tax incentives, and Chicago officials offered Amazon credits totaling about $1.32 billion in income taxes — Texas cities have stayed quieter about what they're willing to put on the table.
Austin city officials said in October that no local financial incentives were included in their bid for the headquarters. Adler said Thursday he still has not heard any talk about offering local incentives.
Mike Berman, spokesman for the Austin Chamber of Commerce, called the bid a "great success" but wouldn't offer details on any specific sites that the city proposed.
Amazon said in a press release that it planned to work with the 20 cities in the coming months to dive deeper into their proposals and request more information.
"Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough – all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity,” said Holly Sullivan, Amazon's head of worldwide economic development. “Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation.”
While this week's news narrows the list of contenders quite a bit — and eliminates all the regions in Mexico that submitted bids — it brings few surprises. Long-time frontrunners like Atlanta and Denver — The New York Times algorithm's early pick — remain in the running, while the company has eliminated long-shot candidates like Stonecrest, Georgia, population 20,000, which pledged to rename itself after Amazon if selected.
Amazon said it expects to make a final decision on a site this year.
Here's the list of all 20 cities:
- Columbus, Ohio
- Los Angeles
- Montgomery County, Maryland
- Nashville, Tennessee
- Newark, New Jersey
- New York City
- Northern Virginia
- Raleigh, North Carolina
- Washington, D.C.