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Caroline Booth: To get Amazon, Denton just has to be itself

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Caroline Booth

On Sept. 7, Amazon announced to the world that it is seeking a location for its second corporate headquarters, dubbed HQ2. In size and scale, it will be a re-creation of the company's Seattle headquarters, with Amazon estimating that HQ2 will bring a $5 billion investment and 50,000 high-paying jobs over a 15-year, phased rollout. 

The site location process is just beginning: Proposals are due to the company Oct. 19 and the reveal of the winning city isn't expected until 2018.

Amazon's announcement touched off intense speculation about what region and which city would land HQ2, and it set elected officials and economic developers across the country scrambling to show the company how their communities stand out from the pack. 

Cities have employed gimmicks ranging from displaying giant replicas of Amazon shipping boxes around town and sending Amazon a 21-foot saguaro cactus to videos of  mayors conversing with "Alexa." Often, these kinds of promotions are aimed not just at the company but at competitor communities.

Denton is just as excited as any other city to throw its hat into the ring for HQ2, but we're taking a different approach. Since one of Amazon's guiding principles is "customer obsession rather than competitor focus," we didn't spend time or money on public ploys. We poured our efforts into getting to know Amazon — its corporate culture, decision drivers and key preferences in selecting a site for HQ2.

Denton clearly meets Amazon's core requirements outlined in the request for proposals:

·         Within 30 miles of a population center

·         Within 45 minutes' drive of an international airport

·         Not more than one to two miles from a major highway

·         Direct access to transit (rail, train, bus, subway)

·         "Greenfield" site of more than 100 acres, options for infill redevelopment or a combination of these

Meeting core requirements is the bare minimum when responding to any request for proposals, much less an RFP for a transformational project like HQ2. What Amazon is looking for is a cultural match: A community that prioritizes education, promotes sustainability, values creativity and supports business growth.

Denton's culture is what draws people to our community and keeps them here. Denton residents are young — the median age is 28 — and highly educated, with 35 percent of our residents holding a bachelor's degree or higher. 

Sustainability is a priority for Denton, and we have a "3-STAR" certification from STAR Communities, the nation's leading framework and certification program for local sustainability. Denton Municipal Electric is a national leader in renewables, providing 40 percent renewable energy to each and every customer at no additional cost, with plans to increase that to at least 70 percent by 2019. 

We have a growing startup and tech culture and are recognized around the world for our vibrant independent music and arts scene. 

As part of Texas' largest metropolitan area, Denton's strategic location on the Interstate 35 corridor offers unparalleled access to both talent and markets, which are critical elements for successful business growth.

While other cities have to resort to gimmicks, Denton just has to be itself.

L. Caroline Booth is the director of economic development for the city of Denton. She can be reached at 940-349-7751 or caroline.booth@cityofdenton.com.