PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — To some, it was not a surprise.
After all, Pittsburgh seemed like a long-shot from the beginning, especially with such major East Coast cities on the Amazon HQ2 list. But like the little engine that could, local leaders always thought we had a chance.
So, on Tuesday, they have no regrets about trying.
Local officials tried to put the best possible spin on the loss.
“If anything, it was a good exercise,” said Mayor Bill Peduto.
“I think this has been an extremely positive experience for this region,” noted Allegheny County chief executive Rich Fitzgerald.
KDKA’s Jon Delano Reports:
But there’s no way it doesn’t hurt Peduto and Fitzgerald, who put so much effort into attracting Amazon to Pittsburgh.
Still, says Peduto, “I don’t consider this a loss.”
Peduto emphasized the coordinated economic bid made by Pittsburgh — unseen, he said, in 50 years.
“This gave us the opportunity to work cross-sector. We worked very closely with our universities, with our corporate community, with our philanthropic community, city and county working together as one, not competing.”
And Fitzgerald said it yielded lots of national attention.
“We were able to get an awful lot of national notoriety, national publicity, around the great things that are happening in Pittsburgh,” said Fitzgerald.
The county executive said that publicity alone is incalculable.
“I don’t know how much we would have had to spend to get that publicity in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Forbes, CNN, Money, CNBC, etc., all the things that have been done about Pittsburgh,” he said.
Amazon’s ultimate choice of New York and Washington DC, splitting the 50,000 jobs between the two, are two world-class cities with whom Pittsburgh could not really compete, said the mayor.
“It sort of was a decision — there were two different leagues, and had they decided we want to be in a world-class city, they were competing in one bracket, and we were competing in another,” said Peduto.
But Fitzgerald saw a silver lining.
“There were 218 cities that did a lot of work, put their proposals in and didn’t make it. We were the only older industrial rustbelt city that made it,” he said.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration revealed Tuesday that it made an offer valued at up to $4.6 billion in taxpayer-paid incentives to the online shopping giant. Wolf’s office released copies of two letters it sent, one to Amazon’s office of economic development and one to Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos.
All told, the state proposed a performance-based grant program estimated to deliver up to $4.5 billion to Amazon over 25 years. It also offered another $100 million for transportation improvements.
Wolf’s administration says the program would have been accessible to other businesses, as well, and would have required legislative approval. Wolf’s administration earlier had refused requests for records of financial incentives it offered Amazon, citing an ongoing, competitive process.
So why did Amazon choose Washington and New York over Pittsburgh, and Pennsylvania in general?
Officials aren’t sure.
Delano: “Did Amazon give you any reasons, have they given you any explanation, have they talked to you at all regarding their decision?”
Fitzgerald: “We haven’t as of yet.”
Peduto: “I’m hoping that they will give back to each city that took the time to provide them with information an understanding of what their analysis said.”
Fitzgerald was asked if this was some super marketing scheme when Amazon’s intent was Washington and New York all along.
Delano: “Do you really think they were genuinely interested in Pittsburgh?”
Fitzgerald: “I do, and I think they went through a very exhaustive process. The amount of cost to them, of staff time and in travel costs, all the things they did visiting all these cities.”
Some have suggested amazon was data-mining, getting cities to give up confidential information.
Peduto rejected that.
“Most of it, if not all of it, is publicly available,” said the mayor.
The mayor said the only thing proprietary might be real estate information provided by local realtors.
Among the most secret information was Pittsburgh’s actual proposal itself.
Both officials promised to make that public as much as they could.
“As far as what we, meaning the county and the city, were putting forward, we’re going to put that out there,” promised Fitzgerald.
So what were those incentives that the county and city offered Amazon? And how much would it have cost taxpayers?
The mayor and county executive say they will release that information on Thursday at 10 a.m.
Gov. Tom Wolf spoke with the “KDKA Morning News” and expressed his disappointment with the state losing out on HQ2.
“With all due respect, that’s a bad decision on the part of the Amazon folks,” Gov. Wolf said. “Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were two great cities. There were what, 238 bids and there were 20 finalists and two of those 20 were Pennsylvania cities – Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. We have great location, workforce, great universities, we’re affordable – certainly more affordable than either Queens or Crystal City – great quality of life and our governments are good.”
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