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Taco Bell Erases Ft. Worth From Its List of New Headquarters : Business: Only one site in Texas remains a contender. The company has missed three self-imposed deadlines for a final decision.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Taco Bell Corp. moved a bit closer Friday to deciding where to put its new headquarters, ruling out downtown Ft. Worth.

But that only added to the frustration among business leaders over the continuing delay of the fast-food company’s long-awaited announcement.

Texas and Dallas-area officials and business leaders have been competing with their counterparts in California and Orange County to garner Taco Bell’s headquarters. With 1,000 employees and full-time contract workers at its corporate offices in Irvine and plans to expand, the company is looking for a bigger building.

The headquarters fight has become a symbol of California’s efforts to show that it is becoming a more business-friendly state and is stemming its eroding corporate tax base.

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But Taco Bell has missed three self-imposed deadlines to announce a new site, and both Texas and local business leaders and officials are wondering how indecisive management is. “The lid’s going to come off real fast if Taco Bell doesn’t do something fast,” one source said.

Taco Bell notified Ft. Worth officials and business leaders this week that it would not move to a four- to five-block site north of the Bass family’s City Center complex, Bill Thornton, a Ft. Worth Chamber of Commerce executive, said Friday.

“We’re disappointed that we lost them because we thought they were a real natural fit for our community,” said Thornton, the chamber’s vice president for economic development. The location previously was not thought to be high on the company’s list of possible sites anyway.

Besides rejecting downtown Ft. Worth, Taco Bell has eliminated downtown Dallas and H. Ross Perot Jr.'s Circle T Ranch outside Ft. Worth as possible sites, said Texas and Dallas leaders. But a spokesman for Perot’s company said it has not received any notice that Circle T has been ruled out.

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Indeed, in Orange County, Taco Bell has reconsidered locations in the past month that it had previously rejected. One proposed project that has gone on the roller coaster ride, sources said, is the idea for a campus-like headquarters next to UC Irvine in the university’s planned $150-million corporate and residential park.

The only Texas site that clearly remains on Taco Bell’s list is the Legacy business park in the North Dallas suburb of Plano, where sister company Frito-Lay Inc. is based. Both are owned by PepsiCo Inc. in Purchase, N.Y.


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