And at their wrap-up event tonight at K&L Gates, they had plenty to say about our city, its potential future as a major player in the world of technology, and — yes — our chances of becoming the permanent home of Amazon’s HQ2.
Panelists at the event included Mayor Bill Peduto, GeekWire co-founders John Cook and Todd Bishop, K&L Gates partner David Lehman and Allegheny Conference head Stefani Pashman. Although our NEXTpittsburgh staff was busy co-hosting our own event tonight, we spoke with some of the attendees to find out more.
The good news is this, says Rebecca Harris, executive director of Chatham University’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship: Along with sincerely praising the warmth and hospitality of Pittsburgh’s people, GeekWire was also impressed with our incredible array of robotics research and our growing community of robotics-related startups.
And in part because of robotics, they believe we might just make Amazon’s shortlist of five finalist cities for their HQ2, which could be announced as soon as late spring. (They also surmised that Amazon would make its big announcement in November, since they said that’s when they always make big announcements.)
They don’t see infrastructure as a problem. We’re a city built for a much larger population than we’ve got right now, so they’re not worried about roads or even our level of public transportation. Other cities, such as Washington, DC, and its northern Virginia suburbs, have more population than their roads can handle.
Even the issues like the city’s water problems are surmountable, they said.
Terri Glueck, director of communications and community development Innovation Works, who attended their event and ours, said they described Pittsburgh’s challenges as an Amazon HQ2 candidate as things that the city is already addressing.
But Glueck and Harris both mentioned that GeekWire pointed out Pittsburgh’s lack of mid-sized technology corporations headquartered here. It’s great to aim for behemoths like Amazon, they said. But the road to becoming a true national technology powerhouse must include wooing several mid-sized companies that will invest in the city.
They mentioned Seattle-based Zillow, which recently made a $10 million donation to the University of Washington, as an example of the sort of company Pittsburgh needs.
And yet, none of that may matter. Amazon loves big, wild ideas. So to truly win their HQ2, GeekWire says the key may be wowing Jeff Bezos and his team with some incredibly creative, even crazy, idea that’s too big and eye-popping to ignore.
What that might look like is anyone’s guess.
We’d love your thoughts: What crazy big idea would draw national attention for Pittsburgh and perhaps be enough to capture Amazon’s attention in the final months of their HQ2 deliberations? Let us know in the comments below or email us.