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Amazon to Dallas – Part 2

Every human action has consequences in the biosphere, starting with our being oxygen-burning, carbon-based animals, continuing through man’s discovery of fire technology to clear forests, to the progressively more complex technologies we have today. Amazon is creating a huge second headquarters; expanding the company in a new city will have environmental consequences, good and bad, and our purpose is to weight pluses and minuses of 20 competing cities’ offers.

First, we consider the likely durability of a campus built in each of the 20 finalist cities. The locations near seacoasts – namely Boston, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, Newark, New York, Philadelphia, Miami and Los Angeles – all share, in varying degrees, risks that an Amazon headquarters there will require extensive flood and storm protections. Amazon could be faced with massive challenges to protect against rising seas and more frequent and more powerful hurricanes which will occur this century. Even if the campus itself is on high and protected ground, its viability diminishes if its host city is wracked by higher seas and and more powerful hurricanes bringing unwelcome waters which, for instance, may flood underground transportation. Climate change scientists tell us that rising seas, and more powerful and more frequent ocean storms, will probably result from greenhouse gases humans have added to the planet’s atmosphere and from other actions, such as clearing forests of CO2-consuming trees. Proximity to the sea is an ongoing, significant environmental risk for any Amazon campus.

Second, how much natural resources will be required to create a desirable Amazon campus in each of the 20 cities? Boston, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles are high-cost construction venues, which translates into more natural resources needed for creating an Amazon campus. Columbus, Dallas, Indianapolis and Nashville each have relatively low natural resource costs for construction and renovation.

Third, how’s the weather? The northern cities can have brutal winters, which may get worse if frigid arctic air continues to go south as a result of global warming upsetting the “polar vortex” which keeps frigid winter air in the arctic. On the other hand, southern cities have hot summers and droughts. Global warming will likely intensify both discomforts and storms in measures which I cannot predict with confidence.

Fourth, how much time and energy will employees need to service the Amazon campus? Most of the seacoast cities have high housing costs, so some employee commutes to affordable neighborhoods might be longer. Less crowded inland cities may offer volume affordable housing possibilities nearer an Amazon campus.

Fifth, how much resources will be consumed in distributing Amazon’s products from the competing locations? Dallas and Atlanta have large airports which efficiently service huge volumes of people and merchandise traffic, while airports in New York and Boston tend to get clogged. The interstate highway system facilitates traffic from any of the proposed locations. Treks to suppliers and customers may be longer from Miami, and Toronto traffic may suffer delays in getting Amazon goods through international customs inspections. Rail systems nationwide need work, so planes and trucks will do most of the moving.

My gut conclusion is that downtown Dallas is the best solution for efficient consumption of natural resources and business efficiency among the 20 competitors being measured. Dallas has good air, rail and highway transportation; there is an increasing volume of center city housing, such as the high-rise building in which I live; a high quality and easily-accessible central arts district; a compact downtown with sufficient available office space and open ground for construction; 7.2 million people living in the metropolitan area who should meet Amazon’s need for skilled workers; and state and local politics that favor business. Disadvantages include varying quality in public education systems, absence of a national university, a very hot summer and possible water shortages aggravated by climate change, and State of Texas politics and public policy which too often shoots itself in the foot.


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