What was in Austin’s Amazon bid? Council members want to know

An Amazon building (KXAN File Photo)
An Amazon building (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The bids are in and competition is on, with Amazon receiving 238 proposals from cities vying to land the company’s second headquarters. Austin is one of them. But now, city council members are questioning what information was included in that bid.

That’s because, well, they have no idea. That’s according to Council Member Leslie Pool, who expressed concerns to KXAN about whether any talk of incentives were included in the bid. She says she’s working to get answers from the city manager about the bid — information she’s still waiting on.

“I don’t have any information about what the Chamber of Commerce may have submitted,” Pool said. “My fear in the not knowing is that some offers or promises were made that we don’t know about, but we would be on the hook for having to make good on them and that’s not my idea of public policy.”

The Austin Chamber of Commerce is leading the bidding process for Amazon’s second headquarters, which promises to create as many as 50,000 jobs with an average salary above $100,000. But the chamber says it’s keeping specifics of its proposal for Central Texas close to the vest.

When asked when council would be looped in, the chamber told us its something they “can’t really discuss.”

But under city code, any promises of incentives would have to be done in public with council approval.

“I have to think that since the city council wasn’t asked for any input, that nothing about the city is being offered. But I don’t know that,” Pool said. “None of that should be held behind closed doors. None of those conversations should be determined and decided in secret.”

The city’s Economic Prosperity Commission approved a recommendation to council last week to support Austin’s bid and consider “the full spectrum of incentive and other economic development tools.” This comes as the city looks to overhaul its incentive policy, with council directing the city manager to put together a thorough review of incentive options. An update is expected in December.

In 2014, an economic incentive proposal to bring Websense and Dropbox to Austin, included $2 million for 10 years if they meet the city’s guidelines for job creation and wages. In 2013, the city of Austin approved $8.6 million for an apple facility. The state also added $21 million.

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