In Pittsburgh visit, Amazon didn't ask much about incentives
Amazon officials have a lot of questions about all things Pittsburgh, but very few about the tax breaks the e-commerce giant would receive by building its second headquarters here, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said Monday.
During a visit to Pittsburgh, Amazon officials asked questions about everything from bike lanes and coffee shops to how many engineers Carnegie Mellon University graduates each year, Fitzgerald said during a meeting with the Valley News Dispatch's editorial board in Tarentum.
"What they don't seem to ask a lot about, quite frankly, is the incentives," Fitzgerald said. "Their questions are more about how much does it cost to buy a house here? How long is your commute if you live in Mt. Lebanon or Lawrenceville? What type of access and transit do you have here? How many engineers does CMU graduate every year or Pitt or Penn State? What is the talent pipeline here? What do we have to pay in salaries to compete with Google and Facebook and Apple? What's the restaurant scene like for young people? How many coffee shops? Bike lanes were big."
Fitzgerald declined to say when Amazon officials were in town, but said it was sometime in February, March or April.
Tribune-Review news partner WPXI reported Friday that Mayor Bill Peduto said the 24-hour visit was a chance to "drive around and get a feel for what Pittsburgh was like."Fitzgerald and Peduto have repeatedly declined to disclose what tax breaks or other incentives were included in the application.
"If they're willing to come here and provide 50,000 jobs, there's going to be some revenues that are going to be generated. Some of those revenues we're willing to invest in areas that would be of interest to Amazon," Fitzgerald said. "I won't get in to more specifics than that.
Any incentive would need approval from Allegheny County Council, and public hearings would be held, Fitzgerald said.
"We can't spend a nickel without it being a very public process," Fitzgerald said.
New Jersey announced a $7 billion package of tax incentives to lure the company, while Chicago and Montgomery County, Md., have offered nine and 10-figure incentive packages, according to the New York Times.
Fitzgerald left the most recent discussion with them feeling optimistic, he said.
"I was very optimistic after the discussion," Fitzgerald said. "I was optimistic before the discussion, and I'm still optimistic after having the conversation."
Amazon plans to announce which of the 20 cities it chooses by the end of the year.
The company has not shared with county officials whether the list of 20 will be shortened more before the final choice, Fitzgerald said.
"Will they whittle it down to five, seven, or two and pit the remaining ones against each other? I don't know," Fitzgerald said. "I don't know what their process is gonna be. They've kept that information pretty tight."
Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tclift.