Growth

Amazon HQ2 – Does Dallas-Fort Worth even have the talent to get back in the game?

Does North Texas really have a shot at luring one of Amazon’s new headquarters, now that the company has canceled plans to build HQ2 in New York?

For now, Amazon officials say they have no plans to relaunch a search for another city to build the project dubbed HQ2.

But if they do, and North Texas gets back in the hunt, the region faces an uphill battle because of a lack of science, technology, engineering and math professionals, one expert says.

“I wouldn’t suspect they would necessarily feel the need to place a headquarters in this area given their recognition that one of the most important things for them is missing: talent,” said Suzanne Carter, a professor of strategy and director of the executive MBA program at Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business.

The high-tech work force needed for Amazon’s work would have to come from elsewhere, she said.

“We may be able to attract talent into our area,” she said, “but the high-tech pipeline they need isn’t already here.”

On Thursday, Amazon said it was moving on, and canceling plans to build a headquarters in Queens, N.Y., where some political leaders had emerged in opposition.

“After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens,” Amazon said in a statement posted on its website.

For now, Amazon said they aren’t reopening the HQ2 bidding process.

“We do not intend to reopen the HQ2 search at this time. We will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada,” Amazon said.

But North Texas business leaders say they will be ready if the bidding process begins anew.

“I think that the region would welcome these types of discussions ...,” said Chris Wallace, president and CEO of the North Texas Commission, a public-private partnership designed to promote the entire North Texas region.

Wallace said DFW is poised to get back into the Amazon bidding process if asked.

“The region remains very attractive for Amazon and other headquarter relocations,” Wallace said. “Our current and future ready-skilled workforce, our education and transportation infrastructure and low regulatory environment are all great assets.”

But many other area leaders coyly declined to comment on the prospect of Amazon giving the Dallas-Fort Worth region another look.

The no-comments make it difficult to determine whether those officials — including leaders in Fort Worth and Arlington’s city government and chambers of commerce — are keeping mum because of non-disclosure agreements, or because they just don’t know much about what Amazon’s next move might be.

Despite concerns about the lack of high-tech talent, there are still plenty of reasons to believe the Metroplex is an attractive option for Amazon. For starters, the region of more than 7 million people includes many of the company’s best customers.

Amazon already has fulfillment centers in Fort Worth’s AllianceTexas development (although the building is actually in the city of Haslet), as well as in Coppell and Dallas. Those centers fill millions of orders per day, using a combination of robots and human workers to keep the inventory organized and moving efficiently.

Also, the company recently announced it was creating a Amazon Regional Air Hub at Alliance Airport. Amazon’s fleet of aircraft are scheduled to begin making daily flights in and out of the hub later this year. A new facility is being built for the hub, and Amazon has pledged hundreds of new jobs to support it.

“With the fulfillment centers they have here and the air hub announcement, they realize the business-friendly environment and talent pool we have, and our willingness to partner with them,” said Chris Strayer, Fort Worth Chamber senior vice president of business attraction, retention and expansion.

“It’s another validation that Fort Worth’s Alliance Airport was a brilliant idea that continues to draw giant brands to this side of the region,” Strayer said. “Amazon Air helps us spotlight Fort Worth’s aviation and logistics industries, which draws attention from other companies expanding or relocating.”

Fort Worth’s offer to Amazon topped $1 billion in incentives when state and county incentives were included. Seven sites and site combinations were proposed, including Sundance Square, Panther Island, AllianceTexas, Walsh and Clearfork.

Arlington had offered Globe Life Park as a potential site for Amazon’s HQ2 — along with potentially $921 million in incentives — but in May the city revealed it had been eliminated from the bidding. Globe Life Park will be vacated in 2020, when the Texas Rangers Baseball Club moves into the new Globe Life Field next door.

Since Arlington was eliminated from the Amazon competition, the city has since agreed to use Globe Life Park as a home for a new XFL pro football franchise.

Gordon Dickson joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997. He is passionate about hard news reporting, and his beats include transportation, growth, urban planning, aviation, real estate, jobs, business trends. He is originally from El Paso, and loves food, soccer and long drives.
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