Houston left in cold, Dallas, Austin among Amazon's narrowed list of potential HQ2 cities

HOUSTON – Disappointment was felt Thursday by Houstonians who hoped Amazon would make Space City their “prime” choice for its new headquarters.

Dallas and Austin made the top 20, but not Houston.

"We don't really have what they're looking for,” said Edward Egan, the director of the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Baker Institute at Rice University.

Egan said Amazon looked for certain things, including more high-tech start-ups, infrastructure (like rail service to the airport and drainage improvement), as well as large research universities.

"At some broader level, we're just not a high-tech, high-growth city. We don't do start-ups. We don't tend to do the sort of things that Amazon is really looking for," Egan said.

Bob Harvey, the president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, said more can be done.

“Of course we are disappointed. Unfortunately, our strengths in the area of innovation are not widely recognized, as was evident in Houston’s absence from the many national rankings that came out over the past few months attempting to handicap Amazon’s selection," Harvey said. "I believe this is a wake-up call for Houston. While there has been growing momentum in the innovation space over the last couple of years, this is a clear indication that we have much more work to do as a region to grow our digital economy. We need to move forward with developing the Innovation Corridor and our digital start-up community, as well as the idea of a Houston Data Science Institute. While we are the No. 1 market in the country for STEM talent, we need to bolster our pipeline of digital tech talent that is relevant to tomorrow’s digital economy. This means working with our higher education partners across the region to develop and invest in programs that will produce the talent we need to succeed.”

"I'm surprised that Dallas made the top 20,” Egan said.

Egan said he would bet on Boston or Denver as the final selection. He said the process has narrowed to 20 so Amazon can get the best incentives from cities. He said the University of Texas at Austin makes Austin an attractive contender. However, he said, Austin is not a transportation hub.

"Austin is a contender as far as high-grade, high-tech startups. It was ranked sixth for 2016. However, it's not

a transport hub. It has almost everything but a transport hub," Egan said.

Egan said Houston is improving its attractiveness.

"We need industry that is already here, primarily oil and gas, life sciences, space and others to want to work with start-up firms. And that might be changing with prices stuck at $60 a barrel, give or take," he said.

Here's the list of the 20 cities chosen by Amazon:

  • Toronto
  • Columbus
  • Indianapolis
  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Los Angeles
  • Dallas
  • Austin
  • Boston
  • New York City
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • Pittsburgh
  • Philadelphia
  • Montgomery County, Maryland
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Northern Virginia
  • Atlanta
  • Miami


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