DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings expressed disappointment over Amazon’s decision not to come to Dallas and instead locate its new corporate headquarters to New York’s Long Island City and Arlington, Virginia.
“I like to win, so my heart’s broken today,” said Mayor Rawlings.
Amazon said it will invest $5 billion and create more than 25,000 jobs in each city.
Hiring is set to begin in 2019.
In addition, the company announced it will build its Operations Center of Excellence in Nashville and create 5,000 jobs.
The Wall Street Journal previously reported Dallas was Amazon’s third choice.
Officials with the Dallas Regional Chamber, which spearheaded the joint North Texas bid, said they believed Dallas was a top five contender.
Mayor Rawlings said, “We were very, very close.”
He said he heard the news directly from Amazon during a ten minute phone call Tuesday morning.
Amazon attracted 238 proposals from cities across the country in October, 2017.
The President and CEO of the Dallas Regional Chamber, Dale Petroskey said in February, Amazon came to North Texas after narrowing down all of the DFW area’s pitches to a handful.
Then in August, Petroskey said Amazon returned to meet with Mayor Rawlings to discuss the sites in and around downtown Dallas they liked.
But after months of consideration, Rawlings said Dallas fell short because the online retailing giant wanted to be on the east coast and because of one major need: “Making sure we have tens of thousands of people right now ready to go work for them.”
While DFW is home to the most technology workers in Texas and has a growing tech workforce, officials said it was still difficult to compete against the large number of people in the Boston-New York-Washington, D.C. corridor.
The Mayor said to reassure Amazon about a high-tech workforce here, the city proposed creating Amazon U.
It was a partnership between Dallas ISD, the Dallas Community College District, UT Dallas, UT Arlington, UNT Dallas and SMU to form what’s called a cradle to career pipeline — taking students from the school campus to Amazon’s campus.
The Mayor said, “We were going to create a remarkable university for them to make sure they had the people they needed long-term and they believe we could.”
When asked if the concept would happen even after Amazon said “no,” Mayor Rawlings said, “It’s easy to get everybody aligned when there’s a real project in place. But I’m so excited what UTD is doing and they’re continuing to grow. SMU is helpful, and we’ve already seen the cooperation from Dallas Community College. I would challenge us to continue to think that way.”
He said the state legislature needs to invest in early childhood learning, public schools, and higher education. “Education, education, workforce. And at the Chamber, one of their major initiatives is on this issue, making sure we build the right workforce.”
Governor Greg Abbott has said school finance reform is one of his top priorities during the upcoming legislative session in January.
State Representative Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, who announced he has enough votes in the Texas House to become the next Speaker, said school finance reform is his top issue.
The Mayor said Amazon’s campus would have been built on three sites in and around downtown Dallas:
Near the old Reunion Arena and old Dallas Morning News building, another area south of City Hall and a third in the Cedars Neighborhood.
Rawlings said the city would have built a deck park across I-30.
When asked why Amazon was interested in downtown Dallas over other locations in the city and across North Texas, the Mayor said company representatives told him they wanted to be where the action is and on the cutting edge.
“The guy gave me a softball and said you’re telling me if we move here, we’re going to change the whole direction of this city and continue to grow South and I said, ‘yes, you are.’ And he said ‘that’s what we want to do’.”
The city offered the company $600 million in a variety of incentives over a ten year period, far less than the $1.5 billion New York City and Northern Virginia offered.
Rawlings said the economic incentives offered by New York City and New York State amount to $61,000 per job, while incentives from both Dallas and the State of Texas he said amount to $22,000 per job.
“We did not want to give away the farm as the Governor said to me when we talked about this, which I think was the right approach.”
The Mayor said he doesn’t believe Amazon based its decision on incentives, and said he was surprised Amazon didn’t focus as much on costs.
“When you take cost of living and cost of doing business and the cost of building this, these buildings, the costs of this are remarkable. We were definitely the low cost provider in combination with talent, in combination of all this. We were number one if you just look at the tale of the tape.”
Dallas Regional Chamber leaders said Amazon told them the company will continue to invest in North Texas, but didn’t specify.
After the state legislature failed to approve controversial bathroom privacy bills, some business leaders in the state were still concerned the issue would hurt Dallas’ chances of winning over Amazon.
Mayor Rawlings said the company asked him about the issue in February, but were no longer concerned after speaking with Dallas residents about it.
The Mayor also said the Governor assured him it would not be an issue.
Officials believe other companies considering relocating their corporate headquarters have been waiting for Amazon’s decision.
The Chamber’s Petroskey said, “We don’t have time to be disappointed because lots of other companies are knocking on our door right now.”
Mike Rosa, the Senior Vice President for Economic Development at the Dallas Regional Chamber said he and his team are heading to California in the next three weeks.
“We’re going to be very, very busy as a region and Dallas is going to be busy as a leading city in this region.”
Here are details on the economic incentives Dallas offered Amazon.