SAN ANTONIO - Call it a consolation prize.
Amazon has narrowed down the potential sites for its second headquarters to 20 cities and regions, including Austin. San Antonio, which took itself out of the running in October, may not be on the list, but tech and business leaders are excited, not envious.
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"I mean, it is about the next best thing that could happen," said David Heard, CEO of Tech Bloc.
Tech Bloc's goal is to build up the tech community in San Antonio, and Heard thinks that's exactly what an Austin Amazon headquarters would help do.
Heard said having the headquarters, which may employ as many as 50,000 people, in Austin will bring more tech talent to the region and grow its reputation.
"You have more entrepreneurs looking to start companies here," Heard said of the possible benefits. "You have more investors looking to invest in the scene, and, of course, you have workers moving to join Amazon and all the surrounding tech companies that support it."
Heard thinks the region has an opportunity to build a tech hub from San Antonio up to Round Rock, as the area develops into a "metroplex." In time, as the area fills in, he thinks it will look like the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
As for the people who would come to work at Amazon, there's no guarantee that they'll stay up on the Austin end of the I-35 corridor.
"You know, they'll work for Amazon. Maybe they'll roll out and decide to stay here and can start companies or join other companies and startups."
The head of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce has similar hopes.
“We're one of the top tourist destinations in the state of Texas. People want to come here. By the same token, when they come here, they like San Antonio. They think about staying here, living here, growing a business,” said Richard Perez, President and CEO of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.
District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse, who was critical of the decision to take San Antonio out of the running, believes an Austin Amazon would afford different opportunities for the Alamo City.
It “may help us ramp up our transportation opportunities between Austin and San Antonio, and the things we need to work on both in roads and rail and different things that are going to help us get people back and forth,” Brockhouse said.
Brockhouse also thinks the city may see tech talent “poached” out of San Antonio. Heard, however, said while Amazon would take a big chunk of the talent, their presence would also make the talent pool larger.
“In the short term, yeah, they're going to hire a lot of local and regional talent, but we'll grow that regional talent,” Heard said.
All of this is based on Austin beating out the competition when Amazon makes its final decision, which is expected to happen sometime this year.
Heard thinks city and civic leaders should help Austin how they can, so that an Amazon headquarters can help San Antonio.
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