EDITORIAL: The way forward in Pa.
Retail chains are closing stores as employment in the field drops in an otherwise growing economy. Can York County shopping centers adapt in time?
No, not because the Eagles are Super Bowl-bound, though that’s certainly worth a celebratory toast as well.
We’re referring to the City of Brotherly Love making the list of 20 finalists vying to host a new second headquarters for online retail giant Amazon.
In fact, Pennsylvania was one of just two states, along with Texas, that can boast two cities as finalists: Pittsburgh is also in the running.
The inclusion of Pennsylvania’s eastern and western metropolises says much about the state’s workforce, infrastructure, competitive standing and flat-out spirit.
After all, Amazon can locate its colossal new headquarters — which is estimated to generate $5 billion in construction costs and 50,000 new jobs — anywhere. And it was nothing if not particular about its requirements.
In announcing what amounted to a request for public bids last fall, Amazon listed its chief needs as proximity to a metropolitan area with a population of more than 1 million; the ability to attract top technical talent; direct access to mass transit; an international airport within a 45-minute drive; and ample room to expand the headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade.
Still, the competition was fierce. In making the Top 20, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh emerged from a list of 238 competitors.
Now the hard work begins. A as Amazon officials take a closer look at the finalists, the two cities must sharpen their arguments. And they have powerful arguments to make.
Yes, there are likely to be robust incentive packages — $50 billion in construction and 50,000 jobs don’t come sailing into town without a little investment.
But it is that most valuable of resources — human resources — which can be the ultimate game-changer.
Pennsylvania has a long and proud tradition as a manufacturing, agricultural and mining state. But it also home to impressive numbers of highly educated tech workers, the type that Amazon insists are a precondition to putting down roots.
That point must be driven home.
Just as important, both cities afford the type of lifestyle amenities that keep those workers — all residents, actually — plugged in, proud and productive.
In fact, quality-of-life benefits highlighted Philadelphia’s initial pitch to Amazon, and rightly so.
Walkability, bike-ability and the second-shortest commute time of any city on the East Coast are among the city’s bragging rights. A tourist-attracting historic district, a vast public art collection and hundreds of sidewalk cafes add to the attractiveness ledger.
Pittsburgh has a history of luring innovative companies — Google and Uber already have offices there — thanks to, among other amenities, its affordable cost of living.
To say that either city’s selection by Amazon would be a shot in the arm to the entire state would be an understatement. A much-hoped-for revival of the state’s coal industry has thus far fallen flat, a trend that will be exacerbated by Dana Mining’s announcement of plans to close a mine in southwestern Pennsylvania in March, costing 400 jobs. Promises of job growth in other sectors, such as agriculture, have likewise been slow to materialize.
By looking forward, rather than to the past, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are showing the state the true path to revitalization.
Selection as home to Amazon’s so-called HQ2 would be a resounding victory. But regardless of that decision, Pennsylvania’s two biggest cities have demonstrated anew that they have the right stuff to lead the state forward as it seeks to address 21st century challenges and, more importantly, opportunities.