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Dallas for HQ2: How would UNT fare with Amazon headquarters in North Texas?

Dallas for HQ2: How would UNT fare with Amazon headquarters in North Texas?

January 29
23:30 2018

The Dallas area made it to Amazon’s shortlist of 20 possible locations for their second headquarters, released on Jan. 18. Denton is among the sites the Dallas Regional Chamber pitched to the company last year. 

“Denton actually participated in the Dallas Fort Worth regional response for the headquarters location, so we submitted several different sites as part of the regional proposal,” said Caroline Booth, Denton’s director of economic development.  

Watch the proposal video submitted to Amazon here.

The possible Denton sites are confidential, but other sites include the old Valley View Mall in North Dallas, Victory Park in downtown Dallas and Panther Island in downtown Fort Worth, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Amazon announced in September 2017 that they had outgrown their headquarters in Seattle and were looking for a location in North America to place a second campus. Following their call for proposals, 238 cities submitted their pitches to be HQ2, 20 of which made it to Amazon’s shortlist.

A final decision is expected in 2018.

Amazon is expecting to invest $5 billion in construction for the new headquarters, and the new campus will create 50,000 high paying jobs, according to their website.

Michael Rondelli, associate vice president of innovation and commercialization at UNT, thinks Amazon HQ2 is an “incredible opportunity” for UNT.

“The entire region would have a boom and of course, as the largest university in this region, that means there is a greater and greater demand for our 221 degree programs here at the University of North Texas,” Rondelli said.

Rondelli said the university would be a good feeder for employees for Amazon. Degree programs such as data analytics, communications, digital retailing, engineering, interactive design, marketing, music and linguistics offer skills Amazon is looking for.

“[Amazon HQ2] would lead to a greater demand for expertise areas from UNT and spur on and increase our innovation economy both for the university and the region,” Rondelli said.

Jeffrey Rous, associate professor of economics at UNT,  thinks most of the jobs will be taken from employees flying in from out of state.

“I don’t think UNT students are going to see anything significantly different,” Rous said. “It’s not like they will be looking to hire a ton of people from UNT. Probably 70 percent of the people they hire will come from other cities.”

He does think Amazon will bring a number of other jobs.

“There will be other jobs created by this influx of Amazon people,” Rous said. “There will probably be another job for every job Amazon brings.”

Rondelli said another benefit would be faculty and collaborative research with Amazon and other companies they bring in.

Deborah Leliaert, vice president of university relations and planning, said Amazon HQ2 would be an “enormous opportunity” for the 274,000 alumni that live in the region. She sees other benefits for UNT’s current students as well.

“There would be, perhaps, some remarkable experiences for our students in terms of internships or class projects or employment,” Leliaert said.

Both Leliaert and Rondelli agreed Amazon HQ2 would attract more students to UNT and said they did not see any downsides to the project.

Booth said she is excited Dallas made the list but sees some negatives to the project as well.

“If anyone would pretend like there wouldn’t be headaches to come along with the benefits then I don’t think that’s being honest,” Booth said.

The project may cause traffic congestion. Booth said house and apartment prices will be impacted as well.

“There are many benefits to developments of any kind but there are also challenges that come along with it too,” Booth said. “As communities develop and redevelop, it definitely affects the market prices for things like housing. I don’t think there is any question that there would be an effect.”

She hopes community leaders and elected officials, wherever Amazon HQ2 ends up, will take steps to minimize any negative impacts the project could bring. She said the second headquarters, being a “huge project with a huge footprint” will alter any city.

Booth believes Denton will still always maintain its college town culture. She thinks it will always be a town filled with students, art and music.

Overall, Booth is in support of Amazon HQ2 coming to the Dallas region.

“I think it would be fantastic if Amazon chose the DFW region because this is the kind of project that will have regional benefits no matter what city limits it ends up locating in,” Booth said.

Cities are offering various incentives to entice Amazon to choose them. Raleigh, North Carolina is offering employees $50 million for construction and a 100 percent rebate of state income taxes for 25 years. The highest offer is $7 billion from Newark, New Jersey, according to the Dallas Observer.  

Dallas’ offer has not been made public.

“I really hope that they don’t say we want you so badly that we are going to give you all these tax breaks,” Rous said.  “You could end up giving away more than you benefit.”

Rous said much of the impact depends on what incentives Dallas is offering Amazon. If Dallas gives up too many tax breaks, Amazon could crowd out other businesses who are paying taxes.

“Do we even want them if we have to give up too much for it?” Rous said. “Dallas is already growing pretty quickly. It’s not like we are in need of growth. It’s not like we have a problem with underperforming economy.”

Rous thinks the impact will be mostly localized. Dallas can absorb Amazon’s employees without a big increase in housing prices, Rous said. He also thinks the infrastructure of roads and the mass transit will help avoid congestion.

He does think the local neighborhood Amazon moves into will be impacted the most. It will be a boom for them, but rents will go up in the localized area.

As for the likelihood of North Texas being chosen, Rondelli said the region has a good history of recruiting large organizations. He named Toyota as an example.

Booth said the area’s well-educated workforce and its transportation connectivity with the DFW Airport make the region a strong contender.  

Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, recently bought a 27,000-square-foot mansion in Washington D.C. for $23 million, according to Business InsiderRous thinks this gives D.C. the advantage, which is offering three sites for the headquarters.

“I think Dallas has an advantage over several of the towns, but it has a huge disadvantage over D.C. I would put odds that D.C. gets it at 50 percent,” Rous said.

Here are the 20 locations Amazon is considering:

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Austin, Texas
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Miami, Florida
  • Montgomery County, Maryland
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • New York City, New York
  • Northern Virginia
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Washington D.C.

Featured Image: Amazon logo. File

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Devin Rardin

Devin Rardin

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