Updated 2:21 p.m. This is a breaking news item and will continue to be updated.
Today, e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc. announced northern Virginia and New York City as the split-location of HQ2, its new North American headquarters.
For Pittsburgh, it ends a year-long competition with 20 finalists that prompted no shortage of public skepticism, affordable housing concerns, and official secrecy here.
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald told reporters today that Pittsburgh’s bid will likely be released Thursday and that the city and county will be forthcoming with their portions of the proposal. He declined today to say how much was spent on it, but added that more information would be available later this week.
D.C. suburb Arlington, Va., and Long Island City in Queens, NY, will split the HQ2 project which promised billions in investment and tens of thousands of new jobs to the chosen location, according to Amazon. Amazon will invest a total of $5 billion and each location will get more than 25,000 jobs, per NPR. The company also announced Nashville, Tenn., will be home to a new East Coast hub or Operations Center of Excellence.
The e-commerce giant announced its search for its second North American headquarters — the first is located in Seattle — in September 2017. That kicked off a continental scramble by hundreds of cities and dozens of states thrilled by the promise of 50,000 new jobs and billions in investment and willing to offer major enticements in an effort to claim them.
Pittsburgh joined the fray almost immediately and spent big on developing a bid that touted the city’s journey from fading 20th Century Rust Belt icon to a 21st Center hub of tech, innovation and cutting-edge research.
Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, joint bidders in this process, fought to keep the details of their HQ2 bid a secret — denying public records requests and then appealing a state agency’s decision in favor of news organizations requesting access. (The city argued releasing the bid details would dull its competitive edge. It also cited a related non-disclosure agreement.)
After today’s announcement, County Controller Chelsa Wagner called for the local bid to be publicly released. “It is time for our residents to know what our elected leaders were willing to promise the world’s wealthiest man,” she said in a statement.
While city and county officials cheered what HQ2’s arrival could mean for Pittsburgh’s economic landscape and for its brand and global standing, critics were as persistent in warning about the potential downsides for existing residents. Often, those critics pointed to concerns about the impact on the local housing market. Just as often, they pointed to Amazon’s first home, Seattle, as proof that their concerns were both valid and playing out in real time 2,500 miles to the west.
“At this point, Pittsburghers for Public Transit is relieved that some of our region’s most pressing issues (like our shortage of affordable housing, and access to quality transit) will not be exasperated by Amazon’s arrival and the billions in public subsidies that would have been given to then,” Dan Yablonsky, the organization’s director of communications and development, told The Incline in today an email.
The bid process, Fitzgerald said, showed that the region needs to continue investing in infrastructure following “decades of economic stagnation.”
Pittsburgh officials had promised no shortage of public input if the city were chosen. It remained a contender after the initial crop of more than 200 North American cities was whittled down to 20 HQ2 finalists, bringing stealthy visits from Amazon officials in recent months.
Ultimately, Pittsburgh found out with the rest of the world and has had no direct contact from Amazon, Fitzgerald said.
“We’re not going to be the nation’s capital. We cant compete with that. We’re not NYC and don’t want to be. But there are other things we can put forward,” the county executive said.
Incline Reporter/Curator MJ Slaby contributed to this story.
Pittsburghers for Public Transit’s Yablonsky said the Amazon HQ2 bid was the “most egregious example of our City & County administrations actively choosing to stifle a public process in favor of backroom deals” without public meetings and he wants to the bid to be made public in a “full, unedited format.”