In an only slightly surprising move, AT&T announced this week that it is moving its corporate headquarters from San Antonio to Dallas. I’m surprised that it took so long.
While I’m sure that there are numerous reasons for the company’s departure, its primary excuse is air travel. I know, from personal experience, that non-stop flights from San Antonio to any major city outside of Houston and Dallas are as rare as a south Texas winter snowstorm. Trying to fly out of San Antonio on a regular basis is an exercise in patience and frustration (and lots of connecting flights). As airlines cut schedules and ground aircraft, this problem will only get worse. Still, I doubt that air travel is the primary reason for AT&T’s exodus. I share Stacey Higginbotham’s skepticism:
Perhaps the lack of good flights is a scapegoat to help Randall Stephenson avoid insulting San Antonio’s technology credentials. Although after a decade and a half in the city, the fact that few technology related startups grew up around one of the top 25 companies in the U.S., is a damning testament to the city and the company itself.
That a sea of tech startups have failed to materialize in the home of AT&T and Rackspace exposes a reality of life in San Antonio: it’s boring. For a city of its size, San Antonio has a remarkably small town feel, and most people are comfortable and content with their lives and surroundings. While admirable, this contentment is a vise that relentlessly squeezes the entrepreneurial and creative spirit from the city. There is nothing wrong with San Antonio being boring. Many people would love to live in a place where they are comfortable and content, but a boring city will not encourage creative and daring entrepreneurism, and a boring city will not attract young, creative talent. I suspect that San Antonians are content with that as well.
Even so, AT&T is not moving to Dallas because it is less boring than San Antonio, or because it is a more entrepreneurial city, or even to make air travel a little easier for its executives. Dallas is bursting with telecom companies and employees, and it makes much more sense for the nation’s largest telecom company to be headquartered there. I doubt that there is little more to it than that.