All other business took a back seat at the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh’s September board meeting as the directors unanimously approved spending $50,000 to hire Downtown-based Maya Design—owned by Massachusetts-based Boston Consulting Group—to help entice Amazon to locate its second corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh.
“A lot of people are looking at this as a ‘Hunger Games’ competition between cities. We think we’re on the short list. So, we’re swinging for the fences with this proposal,” said authority board chair Kevin Acklin. “It’s an economic opportunity unlike any in a long time. Even if we miss, (our) urban site, with sustainability, pedestrian-friendly features, the ability to attract talent, proximity to Pitt and CMU, it might attract a distribution or (research and development) facility.”
The HQ2, as it’s being called, could bring up to 50,000 jobs with it over the next decade and as much as $5 billion in investments.
Hiring Maya, Acklin said, made sense because they were a key part of Pittsburgh’s Smart City federal transportation grant proposal last year, and many of those elements would be in play in attracting Amazon. The balance of the firm’s overall fee—not to exceed $248,000—would be made up from city, county and foundation funds.
Board member Jim Ferlo said the universities that would benefit from the HQ2 should “pony up” too, and that since it would be a regional job magnet, the URA and individual businesses should take an active role in promoting the employment assets throughout southwestern PA, western Ohio and West Virginia, rather than leaving it to entities like the Allegheny Conference.