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Peduto Says The Steel City Will Bid To Bring Amazon HQ2 To Pittsburgh

Elaine Thompson
Construction continues on Amazon's expanded campus in downtown Seattle on Thursday, April 27, 2017. The tallest of the three interconnected spheres will be 90 feet high and 130 feet in diameter, including a botanic garden of waterfalls and treehouses.

Pittsburgh plans to compete for the new site of AmazonHQ2, a second headquarters location announced by the Seattle-based company early Thursday.

Amazon plans to invest $5 billion in the headquarters and hire some 50,000 workers in the winning city.

"With an unmatched portfolio of technological talent and intriguing development parcels, Pittsburgh is uniquely positioned to submit a winning bid for Amazon's facility," Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement. "This is a transformational opportunity unlike any that we've ever seen."

Amazon has a big wish list. Competitive cities should be attractive metropolitan areas with populations greater than one million and capable of supporting “a stable and business-friendly environment,” CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. They want between 500,000 and 8 million square feet near an airport with on-site access to mass transit.

“We expect HQ2 to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters,” Bezos said. “Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in upfront and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. We’re excited to find a second home.”

Credit 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto answers questions on Twitter about the city's bid to host Amazon's second North American headquarters.

David Mawhinney, executive director of the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business, said Pittsburgh is the perfect fit for Amazon. It's already heavily invested in automation, robotics and human capital; now it needs to prove that on paper. 

"With Google coming here, Uber, Network Appliances, Disney, Apple -- all of these corporations make the tech start-up community more robust," he said, "because people feel like they can take a risk. If the company that they start doesn't work out, they can get another job at another great company."

Distinguished professor Sunder Kekre, who specializes in manufacturing and operations management at Tepper, said Pittsburgh is poised to become the Silicon Valley of the East.

"The talent is here and companies are hungry to acquire these technologies," Kekre said. "And the city's great. The best sports teams, the best bars... Looking a decade down the road, I think for the young generation, Pittsburgh is the place to be."

The city's plan is expected to include ideas from its unsuccessful Smart City Challenge application submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2016. Pittsburgh was a finalist.

City Spokesman Tim McNulty said details are still in the earliest stages, and that the mayor will be in lots of meetings Friday and early next week to discuss what the Steel City could offer. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Allegheny County Economic Development and corporate, university and foundation stakeholders are expected to attend, though no specific parcels of land or incentives are being discussed yet, he said.

Mawhinney said the Almono site along Second Avenue and land out by the airport could be on the city's short list. Pittsburgh's lack of air travel options has been a huge problem for the existing start-up ecosystem, he said.

"But I think if you bring an Amazon here with all the rest of the growth that we've had," he said, "it gives us the economic power to entice plenty of airlines to come here."

Geekwire reported other possible contenders could include Boston, Toronto, Chicago, Austin, Tx., and Atlanta. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Thursday on Twitter that he would also submit an application.

Amazon estimated investments in Seattle from 2010 through 2016 resulted in an additional $38 billion to the city’s economy, according to its website. The new HQ2 campus could have a similar layout to the company's downtown Seattle headquarters, which includes three striking, glass-covered domes still under construction. That expansion is slated to open to employees in early 2018. 

The Amazon HQ2 application is due by Oct. 19 with selection to follow next year.

Read more about the process here.