By Brandom Gengelbach
Executive Vice President of Economic Development
Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce
So all the balls are now in Amazon’s court – scores of bids from cities across North America competing for the e-commerce giant’s massive HQ2, a $5 billion investment with immense economic impact and 50,000 employees, each earning an average of $100,000 annually.
North Texas’ monolithic regional pitch led by Fort Worth and Dallas marshals the full force of an alliance encompassing 7.2 million people, 14 cities of 100,000-plus population and the demonstrated ability to unite as one contender focused on capturing one unprecedented opportunity for the benefit of all.
We’re all on the same page – no mean accomplishment, considering the unprecedented scope of involvement by so many highly successful individual entities who subordinated personal agendas to serving the higher regional good.
Reaching that point involved chambers of commerce, mayors, county leaders, economic development officials, consultants, creative visionaries, researchers and many other players packing hundreds of previously unplanned hours into the HQ2 project over a span of just six weeks.
The massive effort began after Sept. 7 when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos invited bids by Oct. 19 for HQ2 that will be “a full equal” to the 8.1 million-square-foot home operation in downtown Seattle.
My schedule was just one of many that were turned upside down. At the Fort Worth Chamber, decks were cleared and daily matters rescheduled to accommodate at least 56 Amazon HQ2 meetings and teleconferences between Sept. 13 and Oct. 19.
Fort Worth’s HQ2 platter filled quickly with priorities such as:
Our public-private leadership met quickly at the Fort Worth Chamber for a lengthy, passionate discussion about whether we should respond to the Amazon RFP as a Fort Worth-Arlington MSA or as part of a larger, Dallas-Fort Worth effort. Good points were made on both sides, but, ultimately, the size and scope of this project is such that leveraging the Dallas-Fort Worth metro of 7.2 million people gives us a better chance for success.
On Sept. 26, an Amazon thematic brainstorm meeting was led by Red Sanders, president of Red Productions. City of Fort Worth and Chamber officials, developers and creatives discussed the distinguishing characteristics of Dallas-Fort Worth and how to “tell the regional story” in a compelling way. Sanders and the creatives shaped ideas around that. They’re also ready from a Fort Worth standpoint if Fort Worth becomes an HQ2 finalist.
A daily 9 a.m. “Amazon” meeting and teleconference began at the Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC), opening lines of communication with and between all parties involved in the regional Amazon pitch. We discussed developments, where plans stand, deliverables that are due and who’s doing what. Attendees typically included cities’ officials, consultants, representatives from the creative community and other entities and individuals.
Mike Rosa, DRC senior vice president of economic development, and I added a Saturday morning breakfast, meeting each other at the Fort Worth Club to discuss HQ2 developments, needs and outlook.
Schedules were adjusted to make time for responding to numerous news media interviews and inquiries from the public.
Daily compilation before 8 a.m. of HQ2 coverage from dozens of local, regional and national media outlets gives us a comprehensive look at competitors’ activity and emerging issues.
Our regional pursuit of HQ2 continues as we map strategy for the next round.
We hope to know by year’s end who has made Amazon’s cut; we expect North Texas to be among the final contenders. Amazon plans to announce the winning bid next year and start HQ2 construction in 2019.
No matter how all this ends, North Texas has already won as a region.
We’ve dug deeper than ever into who and what we are. We’ve discovered new dimensions of mutual respect, working together and where our greater strengths lie. We’re far better equipped with new data and sharper strategic thinking.
And we know that, as a region, our future holds a “next time” to shape a pitch. We’ll be ready. When you get Fort Worth and Dallas working together with all of the other regional players, it’s an all-star team that’s hard to beat.