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Editorial: The challenge of not winning Amazon's game

| Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, 11:33 a.m.
The sunrise is reflected off of the Monongahela River under the Smithfield Street Bridge Tuesday, March 22, 2016.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
The sunrise is reflected off of the Monongahela River under the Smithfield Street Bridge Tuesday, March 22, 2016.

Pittsburgh is not going to be the new Seattle.

Amazon has picked New York and Virginia for its new HQ2 over Pittsburgh and the other finalists for the internet retailer’s second hub.

And that’s OK.

It’s not just OK in a way that a Kindle book from a self-published self-help guru would tell you. It’s actually something that Pittsburgh can use as a learning experience. But the area has to really be willing to look at what worked and what didn’t and, probably most importantly, why.

Let’s be honest. It would have been great. We could all see billions of dollars and thousands of jobs pouring into the region. We could practically taste the way Amazon’s needs would send tributaries into support industries: contractors, restaurants, trucking, housing, so many more.

But that was a wish list like the ones people made when Mega Millions topped $1 billion. The ticket bought a dream. If you weren’t that one person in South Carolina with the lucky draw, it didn’t pay the rent.

It isn’t sour grapes to acknowledge that Pittsburgh maybe wasn’t ready for that kind of windfall. What about public transportation? Is the airport ready for the kind of traffic it would require? What about the parkway? What about the existing workforce and its needs? Would it really mean people who needed jobs would be hired or would it mean a lot of people would move in, and what would that mean for real estate and affordable housing?

None of these are insurmountable. All of them could be handled, and Pittsburgh is more than up to the challenge of standing toe-to-toe with New York and Washington, D.C., and any other city that was on Amazon’s short list.

But maybe not having the winning ticket this time means the area — and the state — can make real plans for the next company that wants to come in and change the game.

Nationally, there has been a conversation about infrastructure for years. Barack Obama said he wanted to develop it. Donald Trump has said the same. Everyone knows that from our roads and bridges to our electrical grid and communications to mass transit that there are things we need every day and things that would make a difference in selling our country, our state and our region to industry. But like the roof that you delay replacing until it starts to leak, we push it off to handle down the road.

Let’s look at not getting HQ2 as a challenge. Pittsburgh beat out more than 180 other cities worldwide to be a finalist for this opportunity. We are on the right track. We just need to look at what we have to offer honestly, and see how we can make it better.

And we don’t just do it for Amazon or another company that might come in. We have to do it because it’s better for us, because what would make us attractive to an outside company is the same thing that would help a hometown one grow.

We don’t need to be the next Seattle. We need to work on being the next Pittsburgh.

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