Penn State

State officials push for Amazon ‘HQ2’ in Pennsylvania

Gov. Tom Wolf is making a push to have Amazon locate its second campus in Pennsylvania.
Gov. Tom Wolf is making a push to have Amazon locate its second campus in Pennsylvania. Centre Daily Times, file

Amazon has changed the way people buy things online.

Can it change the way the economy works in Pennsylvania?

Gov. Tom Wolf is making an all-out push to have the internet Goliath locate its second campus, which the company is calling “HQ2,” in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are each making their own pitches.

Unfortunately, the field of competitors is not exactly small.

According to Amazon, 238 proposals have been received from states and countries eager to get a piece of the company’s multibillion-dollar pie. Third-quarter earnings released last week showed $43.7 billion in sales with $256 million in net income from July to September alone. Add in the previous six months, and Amazon is just under $2 billion for 2017, with the Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season still on the horizon.

Wolf wants to make sure Amazon and its CEO (and Washington Post owner) Jeff Bezos know what the Keystone State has to offer.

The state is wooing attention with a webpage that goes into everything from its key (get it?) location between New York and Washington, D.C., and the eight state airports that have flights to that other Washington, where the Amazon original headquarters in Seattle sits. Incidentally, American, Delta and United all offer connecting flights to the Emerald City from University Park Airport.

Did you know Pennsylvania’s the only state where you can get access to the Atlantic Ocean, Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico? What about that it’s a day’s drive for 40 percent of the U.S. population and 60 percent of Canada’s? That Pennsylvania has a workforce of 6.4 million, or that both Pittsburgh and Philly are in the top 25 of startup company cities? Wolf’s eager to let you (or Amazon) know.

Wolf is not alone in his lobbying.

Both Sen. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey and 16 congressmen, including Centre County Republican Glenn Thompson, signed a letter with Wolf to Bezos.

“...We urge you to seriously consider placing this investment in Pennsylvania,” they said.

In addition to touting 21 Fortune 500 companies such as the Hershey Co., PNC and Toll Brothers, the pitch also utilizes Penn State.

The university has four campuses in Pittsburgh’s backyard: Beaver, Fayette, Greater Allegheny and New Kensington. In Philly and surrounding counties, there are five: Abington, Brandywine, Berks, Great Valley and Lehigh Valley.

The campuses themselves aren’t even mentioned. The university’s specific accomplishments aren’t either, although they can be seen in educational aspects noted, like the number of STEM graduates (yes, Penn State is on the list of top schools producing them). It’s also on linked lists of top national and global universities, as judged by U.S. News and World Report.

But where Penn State is actually singled out by name is the value not of the people who are going there but the ones who have already come from the university. The state points to the alumni network, the largest in the world. Penn State famously touts a living alumni roster of 673,000, with more than 700,000 degrees awarded since 1861.

“Penn State, along with other institutions in Pennsylvania, is certainly a valuable asset and a driver of economic development, job growth, innovation and student career success,” President Eric Barron said. “This is a wonderful opportunity for Pennsylvania and we are proud to not only be a key selling point in the commonwealth’s bid for Amazon to locate here, but to also be in a position where we can provide assistance in every area of business development and readily supply innovative thinkers.”

Barron has spent a lot of time in the past year pushing the importance of the alumni network and the innovation coming out of the university as huge impacts on the state economy, even without the potential of an Amazon relocation.

Amazon has not made any moves to announce a decision yet. The bid announcement was only made in September.

“We expect to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs — it will be a full equal to our current campus in Seattle. In addition to Amazon’s direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community,” the company said on — where else — its website.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce