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Midway chairman: After HQ2 rejection, Houston businesses need to invest in innovation

Houston Business Journal | 01.22.2018

One of Houston's most prominent private developers made unabashed bids to Amazon in support of Houston's bid for HQ2. Although Amazon ultimately didn't select Houston, that effort wasn't by any means wasted, officials with Midway said.

In a promotional video released in October, Houston-based Midway touted its 150-acre East River project as the perfect home for a large urban campus. The video, which was released the day after cities' bids were due to Amazon, highlighted the fact that the East River offers 560,000 square feet of open office space, 150 acres of shovel-ready land and close proximity to downtown, Houston's two international airports, the Museum District and more.

Those features weren't mentioned offhandedly — they were directly in line with what Amazon said the company would require from a campus site in its request for proposals. Ann Taylor, a vice president for Midway, said the process will continue to help Midway market the East River as a potential home for a large corporate user.

"It helped us articulate why it would be a good choice (for Amazon), so there’s a lot of value in that," Taylor said. "Of course you’re disappointed, but … it’s something we’ll continue to get use out of."

Taylor didn't say that Midway's going to be targeting every large corporate user that comes to town looking for space. The opportunity would have to make sense for the overall vision of the East River project, she said, which will otherwise be a decades-long mixed-use development.

Brad Freels, chairman of Midway, echoed the sentiments of city officials in his statement to the HBJ — namely, to continue bolstering Houston's strength as a corporate recruiter in industries such as technology and data science.

"I personally believe that if we devoted the same resources we were willing to lay down for Amazon to this sector, in short order we would have far more jobs in more diversified fields than just one company, even an Amazon, could have ever provided," Freels said. "Strike while the iron is hot. … The mayor’s office is working hard to move a plan forward, and we in the business community should be in full support, helping our mayor and joining with the GHP to lead this charge."

The video wasn't Midway's first nod to Amazon. Earlier in October, the windows in an abandoned office property in East River had its windows illuminated to spell "AMZN" — Amazon's Nasdaq stock ticker symbol. A shot of the building is featured on Midway's Instagram.