Why Blair County Wants Pittsburgh to Win…

by | Sep 15, 2017 | News

The economic development world took a simultaneous gasp when Amazon announced its intention to create a second headquarters – some place in North America. That gasp was followed by a roar of wannabe communities throwing their site into the ring.  One problem: most of us don’t have a chance.

Amazon had some major place-based qualifiers. The New York Times reported that “in addition to a metropolitan area with more than one million residents, Amazon insists that its new project have on-site access to mass transit, a commute of 45 minutes or less to an international airport and easy access to a major highway or arterial road — no more than two miles.” So, the number of true contenders got a whole lot smaller.

CNN Money offered up what it sees as the likely short-list. Good news for us, Pittsburgh is among them. “This is a transformational opportunity unlike any that we’ve ever seen,” Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto said. CNN reported that “Amazon has asked interested cities to share how it may acquire software engineers, and Pittsburgh has a great answer: pull talent from Carnegie Mellon University. Each year the local university graduates a fresh crop of world-class engineers.” That transit requirement though could be a challenge for Pittsburgh, but hey, let’s be optimistic.

So why would a win for Pittsburgh be a win for Blair County? In the world of mega corporate expansions, the Amazon deal is big even among them. With a likely capex in the multiple billions and a need for 50,000 highly educated employees, the project’s economic impact spider-webs across multiple miles in all directions, including ours.

How might that impact filter to Blair County?

Let’s look at Denver’s impact on its Front Range communities. Located about 90 miles from Denver proper, those mountain town impacts start as a day and weekend get-a-way destination for outdoor loving, flannel wearing techies. Those who want that scene more often make the life-style switch from city to mountain. Soon small start-ups and spin-out companies start popping out of the snow like winter pansies. They grow, reinvest, join existing firms. Companies like Digitiqe and co-working spaces like EVO3 were fueled by Denver’s growing tech employment scene.

While our mountains are not as tall, the outdoor scene and our resources are as varied. The more Pittsburgh becomes populated, the more likely some will venture out, explore their surroundings and settle in. A win the size and scale of Amazon in Pittsburgh would bring many new eyes and much attention to the entire west-central PA region – Blair County included.

If we can’t accommodate Amazon ourselves, we sure do want to be close. So, we have another thing to root for in the coming months besides just the Steelers, Pens and Pirates.  A Pittsburgh Amazon win would bring more than just bragging rights. It would bring people, attention and economic impact for the whole region. Go Pittsburgh!!!

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