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Amazon exec with Pittsburgh ties wants city focused on STEM education for HQ2

Aaron Aupperlee
| Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, 12:36 p.m.
Jeff Wilke
Jeff Wilke

Big boxes around town, a big cactus as a gift or even naming a portion of your city Amazon won't catch the company's eye but a focus on STEM education and computer science will make the CEO of the company's worldwide consumer business take notice.

Jeff Wilke, a Pittsburgher often talked about as the successor to Jeff Bezos, spoke Tuesday at the 2017 GeekWire Summit organized by the Seattle-based tech website GeekWire.

Wilke told the crowd Amazon would make a data-driven decision on where to put its second headquarters and he didn't know where that would be. Amazon's search for a new headquarters is about finding more space and the best talent, Wilke said.

“Not everybody wants to live in the Northwest,” said Wilke, who grew up near Pittsburgh. “It's been terrific for me and my family, but I think we may find another location allows us to recruit a different collection of employees.”

Cities have until Oct. 19 to submit applications to Amazon. Pittsburgh has assembled a team to work on its bid. GeekWire and many other publications have Pittsburgh on the shortlist.

Peduto, during remarks Tuesday night before Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak spoke at the American Middle East Institute conference, said he had a phone call that day with the person “who's basically going to be the one deciding where Amazon locates.”

He did not say what they talked about.

Wilke said when he talks to people about where Amazon should go, he makes one thing clear.

“I hope we choose a city that has focused on STEM education, particularly in computer science in public high schools and middle schools in the area,” Wilke said during the talk.

GeekWire wrote last week that Wilke and Brian Olsavsky, the CFO at Amazon and a Carnegie Mellon University grad, could be Pittsburgh's inside track to landing HQ2 . Peduto said that having people in the C-suite at Amazon that know Pittsburgh certainly helps.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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