By: Brian Kendall
The city of Fort Worth offered Amazon incentives worth up to $443.2 million to win the company’s second headquarters, dubbed HQ2, the city and Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce said in releasing pitch documents.
That included up to $438 million in an economic development grant, based on $750 million in capital investment by Amazon and at least 10,000 jobs; $1.5 million in city fee waivers; and a $3.75 million Enterprise Zone nomination. Under the Texas Enterprise Zone program, communities nominate companies for the special designation that makes them eligible to receive state sales and use tax refunds on qualified expenditures.
The city offered to reimburse up to 90 percent of incremental taxes on real and business property for 20 years. Tarrant County offered to abate up to 70 percent over 10 years.
Fort Worth partners also offered to help secure discounted airfare and a dedicated service and check-in station for Amazon employees at DFW International Airport, and to work with Amazon on the installation of Smart City and Smart Building technology for HQ2, the city and chamber said.
Seven qualified sites and site combinations were proposed in Sundance Square, Panther Island, AllianceTexas, Walsh, and Clearfork and Overland on the Edwards Ranch.
Amazon recently announced it would split the HQ2 between two sites in Queens, New York, and Arlington, Va.
“I think our package was competitive to other communities,” said Brandom Gengelbach, executive vice president of economic development, Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. “It’s like the Super Bowl, there are lots of bright lights and extra attention, but it’s the same game you’ve played a thousand times before. You don’t win or lose a project on incentives alone. The criteria and approach businesses use to determine a potential expansion or relocation do not change.”
Fort Worth touted low labor costs, access to abundant and diverse talent, STEM education efforts and university partners, effortless logistics and multi-modal travel, and a community spirit that “defies expectations,” the city and chamber said. The pitch estimated Amazon would save $1.75 billion in payroll costs annually, due to the region’s low cost of living. “35 percent less than Seattle = $1.75 billion saving $35k for every $100k in salary,” the pitch documents said.
Going forward, Gengelbach says the region may use new ideas generated by the Amazon pitch, such as a split HQ between Dallas and Fort Worth with the Trinity Railway Express commuter rail line connecting the two. “This approach would leverage the full strength of the DFW Metroplex, allow more efficient utilization of community resources and maximize the region’s labor force,” the city and chamber said.
“We are currently working with more than 60 potential projects for the Fort Worth area that range in employee count and investment, with 25 percent of the pipeline from existing businesses,” Gengelbach said. “We are also managing projects and doing deals in communities outside of the Fort Worth city limits, communicating with our regional partners almost daily.”
The city’s incentive pitch: “Straight-forward incentive-based incentives take the risk of uncertainty out of the equation. No overly complex terms or processes.” The pitch broke up its incentive offer over three phases of development. The first offered to reimburse 70 percent of incremental taxes on real and business property for 20 years, for a minimum $200 million in capital investment and 500,000 square feet of construction. It required no minimum number of jobs created.
The second phase offered up to 80 percent reimbursement of incremental taxes on real and business property for 20 years, for a minimum $500 million in capital investment and 1.5 million square feet of construction. It also required no minimum number of jobs created.
The third phase offered up to 90 percent reimbursement, for $750 million in capital investment, at least 3.5 million square feet of construction, and a minimum 10,000 jobs created.
The fast-growing Fort Worth has struggled to catch up on transportation infrastructure, a priority of Amazon in its second headquarters search. The Fort Worth pitch touted “all metro area tech labor is within an hour commute by transit or highway.” The pitch continued, “over 340,000 individuals working in key sectors required for HQ2 are within a one hour commute of downtown Fort Worth. This includes over 223,000 professional services, 72,000 in information, and 45,000 in management.” The area’s “fertile soil for a tech company” include “high concentrations in aerospace, transportation, warehousing, retail, manufacturing, healthcare,” the pitch documents said.
By: Brian Kendall