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Allegheny

Pittsburgh officials going silent about Amazon HQ2 progress

Aaron Aupperlee
| Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, 1:54 p.m.
REUTERS

Amazon has asked the team working on Pittsburgh's bid for its second headquarters to stay quiet as the process moves forward.

Stefani Pashman, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and a leading member of PGHQ2, said the company asked the team to sign non-disclosure agreements and that Amazon requested to talk to only one person on the team moving forward.

Pashman did not say if the team will sign the agreements or who the Amazon point person will be.

“This is all going to play out in a quieter space now,” Pashman said.

Amazon last week named Pittsburgh and 19 other locales as finalists for HQ2.

The Pittsburgh team has kept many details of the bid and about conversations with Amazon secret. Word of a conference call between Amazon and officials working on Newark's bid leaked this week, suggesting Amazon requested increased secrecy as the process moved forward. Pashman would not say if Pittsburgh has had a conference call with Amazon.

Amazon's second headquarters is expected to bring up to 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment to the city that's chosen.

Pashman said that if Amazon chooses Pittsburgh, taxpayers will benefit.

“If we get an investment of $5 billion, it's going back to the community,” Pashman said.

Amazon has said that the winning city could see $5 billion in investment from the company as it builds and staffs its second headquarters. Pashman said that money could go toward addressing challenges the region is facing in education, equality, inclusion and diversity.

Amazon made a public splash in September when it announced it was looking for a place to put its second headquarters. It invited cities to bid and posted a request for proposals online. Pittsburgh and other cities held news conferences to announce when they submitted their bids and released flashy videos and websites alongside the submissions. Amazon again made news when it publicly announced its shortlist of 20 finalists last week and Pittsburgh officials held a news conference. Pashman said Amazon, like the finalists, should go quiet as the process moves forward.

“It works both ways,” Pashman said.

Pashman, tapped to lead the Allegheny Conference just days after Amazon touched off HQ2 mania, spoke about the process after a briefing to reporters about the organization's Inflection Point study. The study points to a pending worker shortage of 80,000 by 2025 in Western Pennsylvania as the current workforce retires, job growth continues and the supply of incoming workers fails to match the demand. The study — available here — was released in May 2016 and in the months since, the Allegheny Conference has worked with employers, community groups, schools, colleges and universities to begin to address the concerns. A copy of a recent update is available here .

Representatives from UPMC, PNC, Covestro, Uber and Innovation Works talked about their efforts to recruit talent and begin developing talent early by going into elementary, middle and high schools and talking about the opportunities that will exist.

Caitlin McLaughlin, executive vice president and director of talent acquisition and total rewards at PNC, said the company reviewed and rewrote every job description in the company to make clear the talent needed for that position and show how those skills could transition to other areas of the company. Uber began taking its self-driving cars to schools around the region and inviting kids to the Advanced Technology Group headquarters to “climb all over the cars,” said Julie DeStefano, who works in the company's HR department.

“Just trying to pique their interest at a young age in not only the engineering jobs but all of the other positions that go into building that product,” DeStefano said.

Pashman said Amazon or other companies looking to come to Pittsburgh shouldn't be concerned about the challenges outlined in the Inflection Point study. Amazon expects to add 50,000 jobs over nearly two decades, meaning Pittsburgh has time, Pashman said.

Every city faces similar circumstances, Pashman said, and Pittsburgh is among the few already working on it. Amazon, regardless of where it builds its second headquarters, will accelerate that worker shortage, Pashman said.

“We started this before we even knew Amazon existed,“ Pashman said, referring to the company's search for a second headquarters. “We're really poised to succeed.”

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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