AMD, SOS, PR It's War!
Shots fired in Aquifer battle ... and the target is you
Poor Hector Ruiz. All the CEO of Advanced Micro Devices wanted to do was build a little old 3,000-employee corporate campus smack dab in the middle of the Barton Springs Watershed, where corporate campuses according to longstanding and much-hallowed norms don't belong. More than six months after AMD announced its plans, opponents who see the move as high environmental treason just won't quit expressing their displeasure. What's a CEO to do?
Apparently, lean on the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce for help. AMD's director of community affairs, Allyson Peerman, wrote an e-mail to five chamber members Nov. 3, warning that the public relations campaign by "our opponents" was about to heat up. She described the latest PR stunt by Save Our Springs Alliance distributing outraged letters to Ruiz's neighbors in California and harrumphed ominously about the implications the battle may have for Austin's reputation.
"You should know that we are being questioned regularly by foreign journalists and individuals in other countries. So, the word is spreading globally that there is trouble in Austin, TX., related to a Fortune 500 company that has been a long-time, active corporate citizen of the community. You know where I'm headed on this. It could become an economic development issue if Austin is perceived as anti-business," she wrote. The e-mail also explains that the recipients were chosen because "each of you have asked what you can do to help with our efforts to build a new facility in Austin."
AMD spokesman Travis Bullard says it's not the opposition that bothers the company, but rather the emphasis on personally targeting Ruiz. "I think there's a difference between debating the merits of whether this is a good place to put a campus and what kind of campus we're going to build and these harsh personal attacks that really don't contribute anything to the discussion," Bullard said.
Chamber head Michael Rollins, one of the recipients of the e-mail, agreed that the fracas could affect Austin's reputation. He said he was willing to take Peerman up on the request to meet but that the chamber was not considering any specific action on the issue. "We would honor any request to meet with a company that is either existing in Austin or looking to move to Austin. That's part of what we do," he said.
Because AMD insists that the list of options for stopping the bad PR onslaught does not include reconsidering its move to the Barton Springs Water-shed, the battle will no doubt continue until the last plumbago is planted at the new campus. In her e-mail, Peerman expressed concern that the neighbors of Ruiz's vacation home in Arizona could be next. (According to Colin Clark of SOSA, the organization didn't even know that Ruiz had a vacation home in Arizona before the e-mail. Whoops.) Clark stands by the tactics as a way to put a face on the issue. "Hector Ruiz and AMD are making a harsh attack on our community, on Barton Springs, and on decades of community work to protect Barton Springs," he said. Plus, if the move goes ahead, Ruiz will have a really, really short drive from his Barton Creek Estates home to the new campus on Southwest Parkway, a fact that SOSA finds verrrrry interesting. You'd think a guy with an annual car allowance $24,000 in 2004, on top of his $950,000 salary and $1.2 million bonus wouldn't mind a little bit of a commute.