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Could Amazon execs with Pittsburgh ties deliver HQ2?

| Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, 10:36 a.m.

Pittsburgh's inside track for landing Amazon's second headquarters might not be its universities, top tech talent, low housing prices or open space.

According to GeekWire, a Seattle-based tech website, two top Amazon officials with deep ties to Pittsburgh might be the city's best shot at winning the 50,000-job, $5 billion sweepstakes.

Brian Olsavsky, left, is Amazon's CFO and a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business. Jeff Wilke is CEO of Amazon's worldwide consumer business and grew up near Pittsburgh. (Photos from GeekWire). (Photos from GeekWire)

Jeff Wilke is CEO of Amazon's worldwide consumer business and grew up near Pittsburgh. GeekWire reported that Wilke is often mentioned as a candidate to succeed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as head of the company. Wilke still cheers on the Steelers from the Pacific Northwest, according to GeekWire.

Pittsburgh's other ace up Bezos' sleeve is Brian Olsavsky, the company's chief financial officer. Olsavsky grew up in Hershey and went to Penn State but chose Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business for grad school. His wife is from Pittsburgh. GeekWire noted that Olsavsky fostered recruiting efforts between Amazon and CMU and now more than 150 CMU alumni work at Amazon.

"As a no-nonsense numbers guy, Olsavsky certainly will be a key decision-maker in determining where Amazon lands," GeekWire reported.

Mayor Bill Peduto said it helps to have top Amazon managers who are familiar with Pittsburgh.

"Having people in the C-suite that know Pittsburgh because they grew up here or went to school here or are married to somebody who grew up here certainly helps in understanding the dynamic that Pittsburgh is a city that has the talent and has the innovation, but doesn't have the high costs of other cities like that," Peduto said.

City staff and consultants working on Pittsburgh's Amazon application briefed Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald on Thursday afternoon about their progress. Peduto said the city is "on the right path and getting the right message out." He said the application would be ready in time for Amazon's Oct. 19 deadline.

"I'd have to say we're definitely on the short list that is being discussed on a national basis," he said. "Whether that list is five or 10, it's usually the same cities that appear."

Aaron Aupperlee and Bob Bauder are Tribune-Review staff writers.

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