Letter to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com Corporation, from San Antonio, Texas’ Mayor and County Judge
October 11, 2017
Amazon has once again changed the way we think about the future. When you announced plans for a second headquarters, Team San Antonio dove into our regular collaborative process with the expected enthusiasm that comes with a project of this magnitude. Throughout, your employees and consultants have been professional, helpful, and swift to respond to our inquiries. We thank and commend you for running the process in a way that’s consistent with your brand.
Unfortunately, as aspirational and confident as we are about our community, we’re not submitting a formal proposal to Amazon for its second headquarters location. This is the collective decision of local economic development, government and industry leaders who have been working in response to Amazon’s open solicitation of proposals from cities across North America.
It’s not that we wouldn’t love to have Amazon select San Antonio. Any city would. We know that Amazon and San Antonio are culturally compatible and that we both have eyes strategically set on the future- smart growth, municipal resiliency, and connectivity are areas we plan for and invest in today. If Amazon follows the approach that it took in Seattle by building a massive urban campus to support 50,000 employees, the company’s impact could accelerate our plans in a transformative way.
We’ve long been impressed by Amazon and its bold view of the future. Given this, it’s hard to imagine that a forward-thinking company like Amazon hasn’t already selected its preferred location. And, if that’s the case, then this public process is, intentionally or not, creating a bidding war amongst states and cities.
Sure, we have a competitive toolkit of incentives, but blindly giving away the farm isn’t our style. San Antonio has had a long history of successfully attracting and retaining global companies by smartly finding the right mix of incentives and opportunities to make our community the perfect location for long-term investment. It has to be the right fit; not just for the company but for the entire community. Does it create good jobs? Does it offer good benefits for employees? Are there opportunities for small businesses? Is the company a good “corporate citizen”? [Editor’s note: confusing corporations with citizens is dangerous framing. To sustain the democratic republic promised by our Constitution, corporations must be subservient to citizens. Bestowing the rights of citizens upon corporations underlies many of the greatest threats to self-governance and to America’s independent businesses (related reading)].
Media analyses suggest that San Antonio might not be on your “short list.” But through Amazon’s process, we’ve confirmed what we have long known-cutting-edge companies expect certain key attributes when they select a corporate office location. For Amazon these include: a well-prepared workforce, an active downtown, great transit and mobility for employees, good air service and affordable housing options. Any community you choose will need to grow with you — and we believe that San Antonio is the right community. By some measures, San Antonio has work to do. We know that, that’s why we have been doing the work.
But to be fair, no metropolitan area meets all of the criteria in your RFP. That is why so many states and cities are attempting to lure Amazon largely using incentives. It won’t surprise anyone if the winning incentive package exceeds the $3 billion that Wisconsin gave Foxconn, last month.
Instead, as we invest in San Antonio to prepare for its future growth, we are also working to address 21st century challenges head-on and collaboratively. Other cities will confront similar challenges. But the difference for San Antonio is that we aren’t just thinking about tomorrow, we’ve already been working on it. Consider:
- To advance educational achievement, San Antonio voters chose to publicly fund an all-day Pre-K program for thousands of children throughout the community. The program has become a model for others across the country.
- We’re continuing to invest in our downtown and surrounding neighborhoods to encourage new housing, office, and commercial development.
- Our military roots and emerging tech ecosystem make us a hub for cybersecurity innovation.
- To avoid major problems of housing affordability, we’re developing a comprehensive housing policy framework that is based on equity and compassion.
- To preserve our ability to fund infrastructure, we manage our city in a manner that allows us to be the largest city in the United States receiving a coveted AAA bond rating from all three rating agencies.
- To preserve our air quality, we’re developing a climate action plan, focused on resilience.
- To get people active, we’ve developed one of the most extensive biking/running trail systems in the nation.
- To ensure reliable and sustainable energy resources, the City owns the largest municipal electric utility in the nation, as ranked by generation.
- To ensure safe, reliable drinking water, this community has provided for resources that exceed our future needs, while protecting one of the world’s most prolific artesian aquifers, right under our feet.
In several ways, we are years ahead of other communities. Former head of the U.S. Census Bureau, Stephen Murdoch, once said, “If you want to see what the future will look like in the U.S., look to San Antonio.” The country will one day become as multicultural, young, and socially tolerant as we already are today. It’s fundamental to our culture-it’s in our DNA.
We did not make the decision to withdraw lightly. For us, it takes a long-term view to find the path forward. Few communities in North America are operating with the long-term view that we are committed to. Next year, we celebrate our city’s 300th birthday, and we are already building our own destiny for the next century.
Our message to you is that San Antonio, like Amazon, is focused on the future, and we’re doing something about it. Now and in the future, we’re working to ensure that San Antonio is a good choice for any company. If you choose to join a city of the future, we would love to have you in San Antonio. We wish you success in this and all future endeavors.
Ron Nirenberg, Mayor of San Antonio
Nelson W. Wolff, Bexar County Judge