No ‘brotherly’ love lost in quest for Amazon HQ2
Wolf in middle as Phila. and Pittsburgh compete
Harrisburg Bureau HARRISBURG — In the middle of one of the busiest legislative workdays in the Capitol this week, a group of state senators — including the chamber’s ranking Republican and Democrat — wrote Gov. Tom Wolf letters with a not-so-subtle message: Pick Pittsburgh.
Allegheny County’s top executive has already reached out to the governor,too.
As Philadelphia sizes up a coastto-coast list of cities competing to land Amazon’s new second headquarters, one of its fiercest rivals might be the in-state neighbor a few hundred miles to the west. The cities tangleover everything from who has the best sports teams to the relative merits of their respective gut-blasting sandwiches, and seem destined to collide over one of the nation’s biggest economic development prizes in years.
And if Amazon, based in Seattle, decides only one Pennsylvania town makes its short, short list, Pittsburgh isnot going down without a fight.
“Western Pennsylvania offers many ‘quality-of-life’ enticements that would be attractive to corporate leaders and staff, a fact that regularly places the region on the top of ‘best places to live’ lists,” one letter to Mr. Wolf declared, signed by 12 senators including Senate President Pro TemporeJoe Scarnati, R-Jefferson.
Mr. Scarnati, whose hometown is not terribly close to Pittsburgh, only happens to be the third ranking state official in Pennsylvania.
Politics will not technically be a factor in the two cities’ expected bids for Amazon’s second headquarters, which dangles the promise of 50,000 high-paying jobs and billions in investments. But it is part of the equation in Harrisburg, as both cities — and possibly other areas in the state — vie for Mr. Wolf’s blessing as they attempt to land the coveted prize.
For his part, Mr. Wolf, a Democrat, is trying to be Switzerland.
“I’m the governor of Pennsylvania,” Mr. Wolf said in an interview Wednesday with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Philadelphia Inquirer. “We certainly don’t want to get into trying to play favorites within the Pennsylvania family.”
Mr. Wolf said his priority is to lure the corporate giant to the state, which he said is home to “two world-class cities.” He said he read about Amazon’s search for a new city late the week of Sept. 3, and by Sept. 9, was already schmoozing a top Amazon executive at the Pitt-Penn State football game in State College.
He also sent a handwritten note to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Mr. Wolf and his secretary of Community and Economic Development, Dennis Davin, said the state is willing to help both cities — and any others that decide to compete — by offering them the same help. Though the state is staying mum on specifics, that help can range from public dollars for workforce development, infrastructure improvements, and tax incentives.
State assistance isn’t unprecedented. The state, under former Gov. Tom Corbett, offered $1.6 billion in tax incentives to Shell to build its $6 billion cracker plant in Beaver County.
Mr. Corbett, a Republican, also committedup to $30 million in grants and $4.5 million in job creation tax credits to support Comcast’s $1.2 billiontower in Philadelphia.