To absolutely no one’s surprise, two of the cities on the final list for Amazon HQ2 are in Texas, which has a reputation for business “freedom.” On one hand, it is possible for private enterprise to work in favor of constituents as it did last summer when businesses lobbied against the controversial bathroom bill, pointing out potential revenue losses. However, more frequently, business freedoms are paid by constituents, whether in accessibility or in extra strain on precarious infrastructure. Austin and Dallas offer completely different landscapes, and it will be interesting to see which is more enticing to an already successful company. Regardless, it really is time for Amazon to stop shuffling and make a decision, because its location will affect city budgets and fiscal years.
Austin has a phenomenal reputation for entertainment, but an abysmal record for community engagement and diversity in its workforce. Most of the professional jobs are not held by workers of color; if they are, many such workers come from places outside Austin, often imported by the company seeking incentives. Also, traffic has become such an issue that there is literally no good day to drive in the city other than the hours of 2-5am. The roads were never made to handle the influx of growth that has persisted since the tech boom of the nineties. Unfortunately, because CapMetro advertises as an “option” rather than a viable transit alternative, bus routes are steadily being cut and primarily navigate the central business district instead of the marginalized communities who struggle to reach the service areas. Most of the large companies are located in West Austin while most of the service workers are located either in East Austin or outside the city limits, and definitely away from most public transit. To ease the inequity of service workers’ raised rents for tax incentives, Amazon would have to locate in East Austin on the outskirts of the transit lines. Such a location would also offer closer jobs and less expensive commutes for distressed communities.
Dallas offers a more diverse community among socioeconomic classes, proving that cities with heavy university populations are capable of being somewhat equitable. In fact, neighborhoods tend to alternate rather than having large swaths of similar communities clustered together. While this city has a conservative reputation, it also enjoys a robust public transit system because citizens recognized that not everyone wants or needs to drive a car to navigate a city. Because the system stretches so far, it would be possible to scout properties/land that is transit accessible yet relatively inexpensive for a number of employees. Even above all of this, Dallas is a reasonable choice because of its connectivity to Fort Worth, meaning that two cities would enjoy the possibility of new jobs.