Two hundred and thirty eight communities bid with incentives packages for the next Amazon headquarters. San Antonio was not one of them. The city and county jointly sent a letter last October extolling San Antonio’s positives but passing on submitting a formal bid, saying “blindly giving away the farm” isn’t our style.
The decision drew praise from some for its fiscal responsibility and criticism from others who think the community should be swinging at every pitch.
Nirenberg conceded the possibility of San Antonio being selected in the letter sent to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, citing workforce, transportation and other infrastructure issues.
Nonetheless, the city garnered attention nationally for its decision.
Last week, Amazon released its 20 finalist communities, and here a question remains: Does San Antonio need to compete on the next big company regardless of its chances?
Tech Bloc CEO David Heard said San Antonio can’t be seen passing on the next Amazon-like deal.
“We have to be very careful that we don’t become an inside joke, which is, ‘Well, don’t worry about San Antonio pursuing or being a candidate, because they are the opt-out city.’ ”
Heard believes there was a strong argument for not submitting a formal bid on the company’s second headquarters and the 50,000 jobs it represented.
“I didn’t survey tech people across town, but I would imagine you can’t arrive at anything but disappointment,” Heard said.
Choose San Antonio chairman Eric Bell is one of those disappointed at the decision and agrees the city needs to avoid being labeled “hard to work with.”
“This was arguably the greatest economic development opportunity in 50 years,” Bell said. “We are securing a number of small and middle sized deals. Do we not chase the big ones too?”
Nirenberg said there are a lot of people who think San Antonio should have bid just to show that the city was a competitor.. But, he argues, San Antonio is still in the conversation because whenever Amazon is discussed, there is one city that gets mentioned “and that’s San Antonio.”
“We are recognized through this process as a place that is not going to compromise a bright future just for the purposes of luring in a company,” he said.
Since the October letter, San Antonio has expanded the footprints of both USAA and Ernst & Young, something Nirenberg points to as proof the city continues to do big deals. USAA released plans to hire as many as 1,500 more people downtown and Ernst & Young hired 600 in the city.
These two deals and a dozen more in the works means the city doesn’t have to worry about having a reputation of declining big deals, Nirenberg said.
“The best optics is success.” he said. “I’m not concerned about the optics so much as ensuring there is a return on on investment in our time and resources as a public.”
Jungle Disk CEO Bret Piatt isn’t concerned about the city gaining the “opt out” reputation either. Piatt actively helps the city court technology communities, and, most importantly, he says:
“We’re slated to grow by a million people in the next 20 years,” he said. “We’re on a rapid trajectory.”