After Pulling its Amazon Bid, San Antonio Needs a Real Plan

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A forklift operator moves palettes at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Schertz.

Scott Ball / Rivard report

A forklift operator moves palettes at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Schertz.

San Antonio 2017 is not an Amazon city, and it didn’t take the city’s elected officials and economic development leadership to say so on Wednesday. Anyone with a beer and a barstool was saying so months ago when Amazon first issued its public invitation to bid for the company’s new $5 billion, 50,000-worker second headquarters.

Whether officials should have pulled San Antonio’s bid at mile 20 of the marathon is another matter. It appears the local bid team hit the proverbial wall and decided that finishing the race was no longer worth it. Time will only tell if that was a smart decision, or if we will look like quitters. With nothing to lose last week, tiny Trinidad and Tobago eliminated the U.S. men’s soccer team from the 2018 World Cup. It was a reminder: anything is possible if you don’t give up.

The decision to pull the Amazon bid, however, will be quickly forgotten if Mayor Ron Nirenberg, the new City Council, and a new generation of economic development leaders can deliver in other ways.

“We have 10 active economic development deals in play, and one of them is imminent,” Nirenberg said in a Friday interview. “I can say that with absolute confidence. We want to make smart investments. We want our economic development strategies to be targeted and to be effective.”

Mayor Ron Nirenberg asks for a clarification from City Manager Sheryl Sculley at B Session.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

San Antonio, Nirenberg said, needs to attack its deficiencies and make a convincing case for its strengths. Asked to say more about a potentially “imminent” deal, Nirenberg demurred. Still, speaking publicly with such confidence suggests he and others believe the city is in a strong enough position to attract other good jobs here without breaking the bank.

Only with the NAFTA’s future threatened by President Donald Trump has San Antonio taken stock of how important a player it has become in the free trade economy.

“The reason we are called a 21st century city is because we look now like what other cities in Texas and the nation will look like 25-50 years from now,” Nirenberg said. “We already are making smart investments in our city. Our international focus is a huge priority for me because we [are] increasingly competitive and that’s where we see growth for the economy.”

Still, San Antonio leaders’ pivot on Wednesday was an admission that this 300-year-old city is not competitive enough today to qualify for Amazon’s HQ2, any more than we were when Elon Musk and Tesla rejected San Antonio for its $5 billion battery factory that went to Reno, Nevada, in 2014.

We never will be that good unless leaders can design a real long-term plan that voters get behind, one designed to outlast term-limited officeholders. The Amazon pullout in some ways was an acknowledgement that the plan needs to come before we compete.

Past plans are a mixed bag. SA2020 has proven to be a great start, but it won’t get us there, even though we are light years better today than in 2010.

SA Tomorrow also falls short. It is not a transformative action plan that addresses the city’s continuing sprawl, its lack of urban density and infill development, and its underfunded, mid-20th century transportation system. Yes, the plan identifies the city’s key growth centers and the need for more contemporary master planning, but the city’s underlying development patterns are not likely to be materially altered.

San Antonio will not join the first rank of leading U.S. cities until its political and business leadership embrace an all-in plan to revitalize the urban core and build where we have been building for 300 years instead of countenancing sprawl. Size is not the key and never has been. Saying we are the seventh-largest city hasn’t accomplished anything. Livability, a vibrant economy and culture, and shared prosperity are better measures.

Incentivize a new level of urban core investment. Discourage sprawl by shifting costs to developers. Balance inner city investment incentives with protections for longtime residents and limited-income families. Only then will San Antonio attract significant new levels of investment and interest in inner city neighborhoods, public schools, and places of work. That, in turn, is the only path to improving education outcomes, and reversing decades of deepening economic segregation.

The lack of such a plan already put into action is why San Antonio 2017 was not an option for Amazon. That’s a fact, whether you agree or disagree with the decision to fold our hand and guard our chips.

Some critics of the pullout who do not want to be named see the hidden hand of H-E-B lobbying to keep the new owner of Whole Foods out of Texas, but no one seems to have a shred of evidence to support that rumor. Others lament the failure of San Antonio and Austin to collaborate on a joint bid. Austin didn’t want a shared international airport 20 years ago when San Antonio floated the concept, so why would that city join forces now?

Some simply hate to see the city not reach the finish line. Yet the very public bidding process has taken on the air of a reality television show with cities and states tripping over one another, each proffer more insane than the next.

Officeholders can’t win. Offer ridiculous levels of taxpayer-supported inducements, and critics rightly question giving one of the planet’s five richest guys a welfare package. Pull out and some of those yearning for a true 21st century economy here call you quitters.

Strong, visionary leadership will render the debate nothing more than a bar argument. Put a transformational plan before voters that puts San Antonio on a 21st century path, and the real value of the Amazon experience will be what we learned about ourselves and how we then decided to do something about it.

27 thoughts on “After Pulling its Amazon Bid, San Antonio Needs a Real Plan

  1. “Offer ridiculous levels of taxpayer-supported inducements, and critics rightly question giving one of the planet’s five richest guys a welfare package. ”

    I’m glad to see is pull out of the sweepstakes to give the most taxpayer dollars to super rich companies eroding the very capitalist system we base our economy on. San Antonio does not need Amazon here to promote growth. We are already one of the 5 fastest growing cities in the country. Importing tens of thousands of rich Californians is going to do little for the working class San Antonians priced out of their neighborhoods. I saw it happen to Austin.

    We need to figure out a way to invest in ourselves. Improve the skills of our current residents and improve the infrastructure if our city. That’s a much better use of our taxpayer dollars than giving it away to some of the richest people on Earth.

  2. I think you are wrong with the focus on sprawl. I have not seen a single source point to San Antonio’s sprawl as the reason Amazon will not locate here. The identified problems are worker pool limits, educational levels, public transportation, cultural amenities, and the airport. In this specific context, a denser downtown would have been *harmful* to a bid, because the goal is to find lightly developed, central areas that can be densified with new construction – they are not going to find 8 million empty sq ft of office space anywhere. Austin, Dallas, Atlanta, and Denver are all competitive on these metrics, in spite of their sprawl – San Antonio is not.

    When AT&T left San Antonio, did they cite the lack of density in moving to Dallas? If another giant leaves San Antonio for Houston or elsewhere – think Valero or Clear Channel – does anyone really think their real problem will be density in urban areas? Of course not. It’s that they have trouble hiring and retaining the people they need.

    If we don’t build out our roads, including 281, 1604, and 35, to meet the influx of people coming here (as has done Houston, among other places), that too will become an issue in the future as well. Austin has not been well served by its “we refuse to expand I-35 to meed future demand” mantra, and we won’t be either if we do not upgrade our infrastructure in all parts of the city to meet incoming demand, wherever that demand is located.

    You claim that denser development will solve many of these problems, and is the “only path” to solve San Antonio’s educational issues. Where’s the proof of that? Many dense cities have terrible schools (D.C. and Philly, among others). Serving the same number of children, why does densifying improve education? Dense cities are also extremely expensive cities, as residents of San Francisco, D.C., and New York know, and as the new tower apartments downtown and in downtown Austin prove – where is the proof that density will fix San Antonio’s problems or produce greater equity? Density helps public transportation, but you don’t need density to build public transportation (see Denver), and density does not invariably lead to good public transportation (see Miami).

    More fundamentally, state and local leaders have lots of control over public transportation, infrastructure development, education, and planned development of cultural amenities. They have little or no control over sprawl. Where is your example of a U.S. city where leaders have successfully stopped development outside of their borders, and forced developers to build infill, when the economics said to do otherwise?

    The Rivard Report has a pro-city-center bias. A lot of people prefer to live in vibrant downtowns, including young people and technical workers, and improving San Antonio’s central areas is a worthy goal. Indeed, I prefer dense, planned urban development, as in D.C. and parts of Northern Virginia – but that ship has largely sailed on San Antonio. On the other hand, a lot of people prefer to live and work in vibrant areas outside the central core, as made clear by the fact that San Antonio’s corporate headquarters and booming residential developments are outside that core.

    Riffing on “infill development” and “density,” when the evidence does not show that this is either (i) within our leaders’ control or (ii) something that will fix San Antonio’s core issues, is a distraction from fixing the core issues facing San Antonio.

    • Lots of writing and research out there on this topic that shows there are characteristics of a city wanting to attract new economy industries and workers.

      I don’t think Mr. Rivard is saying stop sprawl. We should subsidize it less so we can have a more complete city.

      The cities SA loses to all have real urban options for young people.

      • I agree that vibrant, dense urban areas are helpful to attract new economy industries. But it is still unhelpful for Bob to portray reigning in sprawl – which is not possible – as the “only path to improving education outcomes” and conquering San Antonio’s other challenges, without any evidence. If anything, the evidence is that densification – as in D.C., San Francisco, and Boston – is harmful to equity and affordable housing.

        I have no doubt that “real urban options for young people” help attract knowledge workers, but creating vibrant spaces for young, educated individuals (which is of course a worthy goal) is far divorced from creating actual equity and “improving education outcomes” in San Antonio. And I don’t think artificially trying to densify San Antonio through government intervention (which is not possible) serves either goal well, or serves to fix San Antonio’s other fundamental challenges (public transportation, labor pool, etc.).

        Bob’s basic thesis is that we should have massive intervention by the City to increase city funding in the inner city, and reduce it in outlying areas. Specifically, Bob calls to re-balance development, by “shifting costs to developers” in outlying areas, while increasing “inner city investment incentives,” i.e. subsidies, and that until we do so, we cannot “join the first rank of leading U.S. cities.” I think that cities like Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, and many, many other non-dense cities show that this is simply untrue.

        Of course, it is fair to call for a discussion of how to balance spending across the city. There are good reasons to re-balance spending inward, including equity. But Bob’s argument that we cannot solve San Antonio’s fundamental challenges without throwing money at densification is not supported by the evidence, and unhelpful. Indeed, I would suggest that fixing roads and schools and sidewalks and other public services in many low income neighborhoods (the vast majority of which are not in or adjacent to downtown, and are not “high density” or even medium density) would be a much better investment than “inner city investment incentives” for preferred developers building new, denser, more expensive housing.

        • What do you mean by fixing schools?

          This argument about fixing schools is complete BS. You cannot fix schools until you instill the importance of learning and higher education into a culture in which many “adults” young and old could care less. Throw all the money and policy change you want at it. But, when you have parents who really shouldn’t be parents and who could really care less about their children’s education you will not see change. The city really needs to focus on educating adults and teaching parents how to be a proper parent and role model for their children. The end of this vicious cycle starts with the parents and not the children who do not know of anything else.

        • “evidence is that densification – as in D.C., San Francisco, and Boston – is harmful to equity and affordable housing.”

          This is not true – the reason why many of these cities have housing affordability issues is because there were policies and people that inhibited housing development (one way is through single family zoning), which reduced the number of units built in high demand areas. San Francisco has a huge nimby movement to preserve single family homes, which has lead to a big affordability crisis that is only being dealt with now through state and local legislation that makes it harder for single family homeowners and other organizations to push back on apartment developments.

          There is a recent article in a Business journal that discusses the rental rates in DC declining after a boom in multifamily/apartment developments. This shows supply/demand economics works with housing, too.
          https://www.bisnow.com/washington-dc/news/multifamily/dc-apartment-rents-continue-to-decline-but-not-where-experts-predicted-80295

    • Mark, you say: “If another giant leaves San Antonio for Houston or elsewhere – think Valero or Clear Channel – does anyone really think their real problem will be density in urban areas? Of course not. It’s that they have trouble hiring and retaining the people they need.”

      Why would a city that wants to move toward sustainability and environmental responsibility want to attract and retain businesses like Valero? Businesses like Amazon, Google, and Tesla want dense urban environments because urban density typically supports walkability, transit, diverse housing options, and the type of workforce they desire to attract. Historically, cities which have higher population and development densities have proved the wealthiest, most dynamic, innovative, diverse and ecologically and economically sustainable.

      Mark, you say: “If we don’t build out our roads, including 281, 1604, and 35, to meet the influx of people coming here (as has done Houston, among other places), that too will become an issue in the future as well. Austin has not been well served by its “we refuse to expand I-35 to need future demand”

      Studies show if city’s build bigger roads, they make traffic worse. Houston is a model of that…build it and they will come. New roads create new drivers, resulting in the same intensity of traffic staying or traffic becoming worse. The mistake of Austin was the city not investing in good transit options, particularly rapid transit to reduce the number of commuters by car. For rapid transit to work, you need urban density to support it.

      When cities rely on cars as their primary means of transit, they lack sustainability and quality of life choices that can only come about when urban spaces are built for human users rather than cars. Cars take up much more room than people… If at least some of the parking areas were combined to homes/places of employment there would be a big benefit – more bakeries, bookshops, restaurants, pocket parks, and affordable homes.

      Mark, you say: “You claim that denser development will solve many of these problems, and is the “only path” to solve San Antonio’s educational issues. Where’s the proof of that? Many dense cities have terrible schools (D.C. and Philly, among others).”

      Studies have shown that higher density neighborhoods create more types of schools, each serving their own market and type of learning for children of various needs: arts-intensive schools, STEM-focused schools, schools with values-based programs, bilingual language schools, and so forth. Offering students choice can have a huge impact when it comes to children that don’t learn well in traditional type schools.

      Mark, you say: “More fundamentally, state and local leaders have lots of control over public transportation, infrastructure development, education, and planned development of cultural amenities. They have little or no control over sprawl. Where is your example of a U.S. city where leaders have successfully stopped development outside of their borders, and forced developers to build infill, when the economics said to do otherwise?”

      Portland, OR – Oregon has the urban growth boundary, and Seattle, WA has something similar, although regulations are less strict than in Oregon. They have been very successful in preserving and protecting natural space and agricultural land – numerous articles and studies have been focused on Oregon’s urban growth boundary.

      Mark, you say: “I prefer dense, planned urban development, as in D.C. and parts of Northern Virginia – but that ship has largely sailed on San Antonio”

      I disagree, the ship hasn’t sailed for a more densified San Antonio. In fact, I think there is great potential for this, if city leaders become bold and don’t cater to just voting homeowners.

    • I think the point of sprawl is that some city leaders think if we can turn into the 6th largest and then the 5th largest and then the 4th largest (and so on) city in the country that will mean companies want to come to San Antonio. They support sprawl only because they think our city’s size ranking will translate into something (such as an NFL team). Rivard mentioning sprawl was mostly to meant to showcase how that thinking gets us no where, so there’s no reason to focus on sprawl. He’s not saying people can’t live where they want (if you like the outer edges of town, then live there). But there’s no reason for San Antonio to keep on annexing these outer edges thinking this will lead to San Antonio becoming a more competitive city. Let the outer edges incorporate into their own municipalities if they want, like Alamo Ranch wants to do.

      • I think many are not seeing the correlation of a vibrant urban city center and the retention of young talented work force, which is what is need to attract the likes of Amazon. Sadly, San Antonio has a multifaceted development issue, the sprawl is a major hurdle to development in the city center. I for one do not agree that simple spending public monies to create incentives in the city core is good enough, it will help but will not be the fix all.

        Please try to follow my logic:

        1. The CITY need to create an entertainment center downtown, by limiting the liquor and entertainment license issued to other part of the city – this will cause young people to flock the city center. The young like to live close to where they play, hence creating a demand for inner city housing. If young people live and play close to the city core, it is just a matter of time before employers will follow and build in the city core.

        2. I keep hearing that the biggest hurdle to our development is education, I disagree somewhat. While we may lag behind our neighbors in tertiary education, our graduates are not staying in San Antonio and we are not attracting others to fill the gap. San Antonio is sadly not attractive to young people. I know we hate the Austin comparison, but Austin doesn’t produce most of their workforce below the age of 35, they move there from other part of the country.

        3. We are not viewed as a hip cool city, the boarded building downtown doesn’t help, the clubs/bars in Stone Oak and other heavily residential part of the city creates disincentive for the young to go downtown. We often underestimate how much emphasis the young place on the physical allure of city, the skyline, the light and the convenience.

        When we look at the office towers that has gone up in the City in the last 15 years (410 and 281, the giant tower north 1601 and 281), imagine what our skyline would be downtown if they were there. It would be impressive, it would be a statement of pride for any company trying to recruit talent to our city.

        The sprawl has been a disaster for our city.

  3. Mike is right. It’s all about education levels and tech worker pool. SA has a long way to go, but can get there from here, within 10 years. Pittsburgh and Kansas City,KS/MO have shown it’s possible for metro areas to reorient.

    People forget that Amazon’s HQ in Seattle *doesn’t* have mass transit. Yes it has a bus system, all cities do, but it only has 1 commuter rail line. Dallas in contrast has Dart, which is quite extensive and quick from my experience. So Dallas actually has a much better mass transit system than Seattle.

    And Seattle is a massive, sprawling city, don’t let anyone think otherwise.

    It’s all about worker pool , which is aligned with educational attainment factors.

    San Antonio can get there, but needs to increase high school graduation rates (and not factor in GEDs) and 4 yr college degree levels.

    Most likely, Amazon already knows where it will go, probably DFW, Detroit-Windsor, or Kansas City,KS-MO.

  4. When San Antonio thought the new Frost building was a skyscraper of magnitude that said it all for me about the mentality of San Antonio leadership.

  5. Another debate about sprawl vs. urban core. Really?! We have 13 regional centers in SA. Some are job centers and others are mixed uses including residential. Why not put our limited and precious resources into them? Make them desirable and models for livibility and economic growth. The cost to extend roads, drainage, water, sewer, gas and electric lines, police and fire substations, parks and libraries is trmendously expensive while capacity exits in these centers. Density has proven to have the greatest monetary return per acre. Land should be used efficiently. The current growth pattern is unsustainable and will not make us competitive for economic opportunity. Unmanaged growth reminds me of eating lots ice cream and hoping you’ll lose weight. The answer to obesity is not to get bigger pants.

  6. WE have a world-class airport, a city with much racial and ethnic diversity, and an economy that is rivaled by other left and right coast cities. WHY did SAT give up courting Amazon, with millions of $$$ in economic benefits?

    Oh, yeah…because the locals don’t like high tech to make them look like Austinites. We don’t want to lose that San Antonio “flavor”.

    Keep it low class, San Antonio.

  7. San Antonio is the 24th largest metro area. City size means littke. Ask Dallas and Atlanta. We need to focus on education first, then inovative infrastructure. Well educated citizens will see the value in everything else we need and will see the cost benefit in supporting it.

  8. “Time will only tell if that was a smart decision, or if we will look like quitters.”

    Bob, remember the words of a very wise man:
    “If you’re gonna play the game, boy
    You gotta learn to play it right
    You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
    Know when to fold ’em
    Know when to walk away
    Know when to run
    You never count your money
    When you’re sittin’ at the table
    There’ll be time enough for countin’
    When the dealin’s done”

  9. I agree on most of what you said. I believe the city leaders need to be full bore all in. I also agree that San Antonio cannot lean on Austin for any joint plan. Austinites generally look down on San Antonio, so there is no doubt they will not collaborate on anything in which they do not benefit more. I believe you’re right also about having developers share the cost of development, however, that strategy needs to be well thought out. If not, it can push development further out, encouraging the very urban sprawl it is trying to discourage. In addition, those residents will be out of reach of the responsibility of paying city taxes on the infrastructure and services they use in the city on a daily basis. One other point, all the plans in the world will not help without first focusing on a new regional airport with a focus on helping South Texas and Corpus Christi. Corpus Christi is getting deepwater port improvements and both cities could benefit by a new regional airport located on the Southeast side of our city. The relocation of AT & T should have been a wake up call. I think the planning, organizing and collaborating of all San Antonio leaders will be required on the level that brought HemisFair to San Antonio in order to be successful. But, San Antonio need not go it alone this time. South Texas has long been ignored but engaging leaders from Corpus Christi and all of South Texas will ensure success.

  10. The Amazon HQ2 proposal requires a confluence of land, large-scale facilities, worker talent, workforce housing, universities network, major airport + mass transportation (i.e. rail) plus significant long-term development incentives. Only a few markets in the U.S. can fill this order.

  11. Not courting Amazon is tantamount to sitting out the future of business. Amazon is one of the first companies in the world that has put customers first, not as an empty slogan but as solid uncompromising practice. Luring Amazon.com to San Antonio is nothing like courting the Olympics or a new NFL team. This is an outrageously massive opportunity on so many levels and in so many angles. And for so many decades.

    San Antonio is more poised than you think to make sense to Amazon. It would really make us a bitter outsider if Austin gets this new headquarters when we could have reaped the benefits for the next 30 to 40 years. I really wish our leadership would re-read The Everything Store by Brad Stone and see how this Texas boy, Jeff Bezos who created Goliath was actually David just a few short years ago. Everybody laughed at his ambition until just a couple of years ago.

    Already, Jeff Bezos is an owner of a large ranch in the Cotulla area. Is this is already his designated site for his Blue Ocean activities. Can you imagine rocket ships launching from South Texas?

    But hey… I’m assuming everybody knows that an Amazon sister company is making spaceships and this fact was considered when they thoughtfully decided to not invite Amazon to come here.

    If HEB listened to its inner protectionist voice and lobbied our city and county leaders to boo-hoo the Amazon deal (as was stated in another comment), they should have tamed those inner voices instead and enjoyed front row seats to the greatest customer service show on earth. Amazon “gets” customers so they get customers. True, HEB does have to commit to more healthy food offerrings in light of the Whole Foods pressure but we will win because of this. And they’ll have to do that anyway whether Amazon headquarters #2 is here or in Tampa Bay or Des Moines or Austin. HEB is great on culture but they can be better and having Amazon in town could push them to future-fortify.

    Amazon has slowly cultured their business. Amazon used to sell books. Now their biggest product is entrepreneurship. They’ve probably made more entrepreneurs than any other company. If you need a website that can grow to Uber proportions and you want to pay for it as your business grows, then the solution is Amazon Web Services.

    Amazon is not just a thing store it is an “everything” store. They can and will sell everything sellable. In the future you will be able to buy a 3D home on Amazon. They will deliver the printer and will build onsite the most efficient smart home ever conceived (that’s my prediction). I suspect that in the near future you will order toys, parts and other small hard to find items and go to an Amazon sponsored 3D station a mile away from your house to print a that tool. It would be just like you visit kinkos to print out a presentation.

    Whatever Amazon touches it does well because they have cracked the culture code that motivates you and I. If you have not tried the Amazon experience, you are not really in the best position to understand the depth of this missed opportunity. Amazon.com should be re-considered. They can drag us to the future.

    To compare the courting of Amazon to the courting of the Olympic Games is an Olympian mistake. That is a algorithmic and computational error to even remotely think that these are similar in context. Amazon is one of the last successful companies ever because all it has to continue to do is to figure out what we want and it does that well because we tell it what we want through our behavior and requests. The only real threat to Amazon is Jack Maa and his Alibaba companies.

    If the city council has a more clear crystal ball than the rest of us then they should help us understand how the future of San Antonio will operate when most of our traditional models and mediums are replaced by platforms and hypermedia. Amazon is a 50 to 100 year plan prospect, not a 10 year thing. We are not operating on traditional business models anymore. We can’t make San Antonio great again by repeating past behaviors. The end of business as we knew it has arrived. I don’t believe our city and county leaders are right to ignore Amazon, especially if they don’t fully understand the breadth and depth of the company. If we walk away from this Amazonian opportunity and don’t transform ourselves into a next era city of innovation, business and hyper-connected culture then this is pretty much the single biggest blunder San Antonio has potentially committed since failing to create a city that nurtured and fed future-ready intellectual and innovative citizens with big picture abilities at every strata of society.

  12. The video of Jeff Bezos topping a new Amazon wind farm in Texas (along with the closing of several coal powered energy plants) this week says it all, I think. For San Antonio to even compete with other Texas cities for companies like Amazon aiming for 100% renewable energy, we need to make bolder and more visible commitments to renewable energy including wind energy.

    In 2017, San Antonio’s few (3?) and older renewable energy charged electric buses are hidden and not part of new visitor ‘VIVA’ services. Meanwhile, Chicago is running 82 routes with all electric buses, transitioning their fleet from diesel to electric in 2016.

    In 2017, San Antonio customers do not have a clear path to choosing 100% renewable energy. Various solar programs have endless waiting lists and our Windtricity program is buried deep within the CPS Energy website. Meanwhile in Austin, all residential and commercial customers can choose 100% wind energy with one click from the Austin Energy homepage and with no waiting as Austin aims for 50% renewable energy by 2020 and 65% by 2025. To achieve these aims — which compare with the targets of other leading U.S. cities — the City of Austin has purchased 100% renewable energy for their operations since 2011.

    As part of a new plan or deal for San Antonio, all local customers deserve a clear and easy 100% renewable energy choice. Companies and organizations that choose 100% renewable energy should be celebrated. The City of San Antonio, too, should purchase 100% renewable energy and set more ambitious goals for overall renewable energy share like other cities (we currently aim for and have not yet achieved a meager 20%).

    Electric buses, including smaller buses, should serve San Antonio residents and visitors beginning at the airport and improve the fledgling VIVA offerings, including to further restore and enhance the lost trolley bus routes that served greater downtown well for decades. If we want to be part of the new economy of renewable energy and electrified vehicles, we need to walk the walk and stop shortchanging or burying these efforts.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Business/amazon-ceo-commemorates-opening-giant-wind-farm-smashing/story?id=50608858

    http://kut.org/post/3-takeaways-unprecedented-texas-coal-plant-closures

  13. Not courting Amazon is tantamount to sitting out the future of business. Amazon is one of the first companies in the world that has put customers first, not as an empty slogan but as solid uncompromising practice. Luring Amazon.com to San Antonio is nothing like courting the Olympics or a new NFL team. This is an outrageously massive opportunity on so many levels and in so many angles. And for so many decades.

    San Antonio is more poised than you think to make sense to Amazon. It would really make us a bitter outsider if Austin gets this new headquarters when we could have reaped the benefits for the next 30 to 40 years. I really wish our leadership would re-read The Everything Store by Brad Stone and see how this Texas boy, Jeff Bezos who created Goliath was actually David just a few short years ago. Everybody laughed at his ambition until just a couple of years ago.

    Already, Jeff Bezos is an owner of a large ranch in the Cotulla area. Is this is already his designated site for his Blue Ocean activities. Can you imagine rocket ships launching from South Texas?

    But hey… I’m assuming everybody knows that an Amazon sister company is making spaceships and this fact was considered when they thoughtfully decided to not invite Amazon to come here.

    If HEB listened to its inner protectionist voice and lobbied our city and county leaders to boo-hoo the Amazon deal (as was stated in another comment), they should have tamed those inner voices instead and enjoyed front row seats to the greatest customer service show on earth. Amazon “gets” customers so they get customers. True, HEB does have to commit to more healthy food offerrings in light of the Whole Foods pressure but we will win because of this. And they’ll have to do that anyway whether Amazon headquarters #2 is here or in Tampa Bay or Des Moines or Austin. HEB is great on culture but they can be better and having Amazon in town could push them to future-fortify.

    Amazon has slowly cultured their business. Amazon used to sell books. Now their biggest product is entrepreneurship. They’ve probably birthed more entrepreneurs than any other company. If you need a website that can grow to Uber proportions and you want to pay for it as your business grows, then the solution is Amazon Web Services. This week, Amazon introduced Gluon. Look it up.

    Amazon is not just a thing store it is an “everything” store. They can and will sell everything sellable. In the future you will be able to buy a 3D home on Amazon. They will deliver the printer and will build onsite the most efficient smart home ever conceived (that’s my prediction). I suspect that in the near future you will order toys, parts and other small hard to find items and go to an Amazon sponsored 3D station a mile away from your house to print a that tool. It would be just like you visit kinkos to print out a presentation.

    Whatever Amazon touches it does well because they have cracked the culture code that motivates you and I. If you have not tried the Amazon experience, you are not really in the best position to understand the depth of this missed opportunity. Amazon.com should be re-considered. They can drag us to the future. It would be the equivalent of having a financial district (in terms of opportunity and economic) like Wall Street in New York.

    To compare the courting of Amazon to the courting of the Olympic Games is an Olympian mistake. That is a algorithmic and computational error to even remotely think that these are similar in context. Amazon is one of the last successful companies ever to be because all it has to continue to do is to figure out what we want and it does that well because we tell it what we want through our behavior and requests. The only real threat to Amazon is Jack Maa and his Alibaba companies.

    If the city council has a more clear crystal ball than the rest of us then they should help us understand how the future of San Antonio will operate when most of our traditional models and mediums are replaced by platforms and hypercontextual media. Amazon is a 50 to 100 year plan prospect, not a 10 year thing. We are not operating on traditional business models anymore. We can’t make San Antonio great again by repeating past behaviors. The end of business as we knew it has arrived. I don’t believe our city and county leaders are right to ignore Amazon, especially if they don’t fully understand the breadth and depth of their empire. If we walk away from this Amazonian opportunity and don’t transform ourselves into a next era city of innovation, business and hyper-connected culture then this is pretty much the single biggest blunder San Antonio has potentially committed since failing to create a city that nurtured and fed future-ready intellectual and innovative citizens with big picture abilities at every strata of society.

    “Alexa… Please reconsider us. We weren’t fully awake.”

  14. I think many are not seeing the correlation of a vibrant urban city center and the retention of young talented workforce, which is what is need to attract the likes of Amazon. Sadly, San Antonio has a multifaceted development issue, the sprawl is a major hurdle to development in the city center. I for one do not agree that simple spending public monies to create incentives in the city core is good enough, it will help but will not be the fix all.
    Please try to follow my logic:
    1. The CITY need to create an entertainment center downtown, by limiting the liquor and entertainment license issued to other part of the city – this will cause young people to flock the city center. The young like to live close to where they play, hence creating a demand for inner city housing. If young people live and play close to the city core, it is just a matter of time before employers will follow and build in the city core.
    2. I keep hearing that the biggest hurdle to our development is education, I disagree somewhat. While we may lag behind our neighbors in tertiary education, our graduates are not staying in San Antonio and we are not attracting others to fill the gap. San Antonio is sadly not attractive to young people. I know we hate the Austin comparison, but Austin doesn’t produce most of their workforce below the age of 35, they move there from other part of the country.
    3. We are not viewed as a hip cool city, the boarded building downtown doesn’t help, the clubs/bars in Stone Oak and other heavily residential part of the city creates disincentive for the young to go downtown. We often underestimate how much emphasis the young place on the physical allure of city, the skyline, the light and the convenience.
    When we look at the office towers that has gone up in the City in the last 15 years (410 and 281, the giant tower north 1601 and 281), imagine what our skyline would be downtown if they were there. It would be impressive, it would be a statement of pride for any company trying to recruit talent to our city.
    The sprawl has been a disaster for our city.

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