Amazon's second headquarters will be built in a city with these 9 qualities—Learn how Austin fares

The Great Austin Chamber of Commerce says it is prepared to make a bid  to become the second North American headquarters city for global retail giant Amazon.

The Great Austin Chamber of Commerce says it is prepared to make a bid to become the second North American headquarters city for global retail giant Amazon.

It is official: Amazon is looking for a city to host its second headquarters, and Austin-area economic development officials intend to court the tech giant to Central Texas.

The online shopping and technology giant announced the plans earlier this week. The process for submitting proposals opened Thursday, Sept. 7, and will close on Thursday, Oct. 19.

Amazon estimates the new headquarters will result in a $5 billion investment and bring 50,000 high-paying jobs to the city that lands the project. According to Amazon documents, it is estimated that Amazon’s Seattle headquarters brought an additional $38 billion to the local economy between 2010 and 2016.

For prospective cities, there is a lot to be desired in hosting Amazon’s second headquarters; however, Amazon desires much from its future location. Below is an official list released by Amazon of ideal characteristics for a host city and a look at how Austin stacks up to each.

1. Metropolitan area with more than one million people

Amazon wants a location that is heavily populated—more specifically, an area within at least 30 miles of a population center as the company expects to bring roughly 50,000 jobs. The Austin Round-Rock metropolitan area’s population was measured at 2.1 million people, according to city estimates as of April 1.


2. Within 45 minutes of an international airport

The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport's 45-minute radius reaches as far north as Georgetown, west toward the The Hills, San Marcos to the south and Winchester to the east.


3. Located 1 to 2 miles away from major roadways

Six major roadways run through Austin’s city limits—Loop 360, MoPac Expressway, U.S. Routes 183 and 290, Interstate Highway 35, and State Highway 130.


4.Access to mass transit

Austin has struggled to provide a robust mass transit system. The lone Red Line for the Metro Rail systems runs south from Leander through the center of the city to downtown.

Capital Metro, the city’s transit authority, also operates more than 80 bus routes, most of which run strictly in the city’s core. CapMetro is in the midst of two projects to enhance the mass transit system—Connections 2025 looks to bring more, and more frequent bus routes throughout the city and Project Connect aims to better connect the city’s suburbs through an enhances regional transportation system.


5. Estimated campus size is 8 million square feet

The new Amazon headquarters would fit comfortably in Northwest Austin in the mostly undeveloped Robinson Ranch tract, which is roughly 348,000,000-square-feet. The Apple Campus lies just outside of this tract.


6. Economic incentives

Austin has a history of negotiating economic incentive deals with economy-boosting projects. Recently, City Council approved an $800,000 property tax rebate for pharmaceutical giant Merck, which will open a plant in Austin that promises to bring 600 jobs.

The city inked a deal with Samsung in 2005 for the construction of the manufacturer’s $4 billion fabrication plant. Samsung has received over $66 million in property tax rebates through a deal that provides a 100 percent property tax payback for the first 10 years and 75 percent payback through the following 10.


7. Strong labor force and university system

The city of Austin has often been compared to Silicon Valley as a hotbed for innovation in the technology industry. The city currently hosts campuses for tech giants Apple, Facebook and Google.

Amazon said a strong local university system is preferred. The University of Texas ranked 56 out of 310 in U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 National Universities ranking list.


8. Quick timetable for construction commencement

This typically means an easy and streamlined permitting process, which Austin has notoriously lacked. While the city works to fix its permitting process through initiatives such as CodeNEXT—the rewrite of the city's land development code—the city recently implemented an expedited permitting program that allows developers to pay an extra fee to have their application process streamlined.


9. Cultural community/quality of life

Often priding itself on its unique culture, Austin was ranked the number one place to live by U.S. News and World Report in 2017 and according to the U.S. Census Bureau it is the fastest growing large metropolitan area in the country. Also dubbed the “Live Music Capital of the World” Austin’s culture relies heavily on its robust music and arts community to help “Keep Austin Weird.”

By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, USA Today and several other local outlets along the east coast.


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