No ‘brotherly’ love lost in quest for Ama­zon HQ2

Wolf in mid­dle as Phila. and Pitts­burgh com­pete

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - The Region - By An­gela Couloumbis and Liz Navratil

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.

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