Amazon Did the Homework: 7 Reasons PA Should Be on Any Business’s Shortlist
After a yearlong public search for a North American city to claim as its second home, Amazon made its decision and instead named two locations — Long Island City, NY and the newly branded National Landing neighborhood in Northern Virginia — the winners of its HQ2 project.
Amazon’s location search highlighted — on a national scale — the incredible opportunities that exist in Pennsylvania. Out of 238 submissions, two PA cities made the shortlist because of their talent, strategic locations, robust infrastructure, low cost of living, and high quality of life — an attractive combination that’s emblematic of the resources available not only in the state’s large urban areas, but in countless communities across the commonwealth.
Businesses of all shapes and sizes want a dynamic location where they can grow and provide a high quality of life for themselves and their employees, and they’ll find those competitive reasons here in Pennsylvania. Tech giant Apple agrees, as evidenced by a recent announcement to expand operations in PA as part of their plans to add more than 20,000 new jobs and invest over $30 billion in the U.S. over the next 5 years.
Here’s what businesses in growth mode should know about Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania is an economic powerhouse and has the second-most diverse economy of any U.S. state.
We also have the ninth-highest economic density in the country. Corporate headquarters (just talk to American Eagle, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Aqua America), manufacturing facilities, and state-of-the-art R&D labs — including 20 Fortune 500 companies — all have found success here. Our size and diversity ensure stability and provide the resources and cost-effective access to critical supply chains that businesses need to grow.
The Keystone State offers personalized one-on-one service and understands the value of having the right partners at the table , plus a toolbox of resources to help your business can grow and thrive in Pennsylvania.
The Governor’s Action Team (GAT) works at the speed of business – your business, to deliver concierge-level services. GAT represents the Governor’s Office and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), connecting companies with communities and critical resources to advance their plans. This includes welcoming international companies as well; recently, Governor Tom Wolf announced the Open Investment Policy Statement, establishing a supportive environment for investment from global companies.
Businesses launching in Pennsylvania have access to a full toolkit of resources to help them start, grow, and succeed. Governor Wolf’s PA Business One-Stop Shop initiative helps guide entrepreneurs and small businesses through all stages of development, from planning and startup to operation and expansion. The state also offers unmatched technical assistance for growing companies, including a wealth of resources for workforce development and access to local business counseling and training networks. That’s in addition to many targeted programs and funding opportunities.
Diversity and inclusiveness are some of Pennsylvania’s many strengths.
Pennsylvania was founded centuries ago on the idea that all are welcome and can practice their faith and culture as they see fit. One of Governor Wolf’s first executive orders was dedicated to improving the participation of small and diverse businesses in state government contracting — minority-, women-, LGBT-, veteran-, and disabled-owned businesses. As another measure to help coordinate and drive statewide equality efforts, Governor Wolf created the first and only statewide Commission on LGBTQ Affairs in the nation.
Pennsylvania has the infrastructure businesses need to get where they’re going.
Our location is just one of the many reasons national and global companies thrive within our borders. In a day’s drive, businesses can reach nearly 40 percent of U.S. and 60 percent of Canadian populations, and four of the 10 largest markets in the United States. Our state is also home to six international airports, three Class I railroads, 64 railroads, 120,000+ miles of highway, and eight Foreign Trade Zones. Three ports in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Erie make Pennsylvania the only state with access to the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Great Lakes.
Pennsylvania’s primary and secondary education is producing the workforce needed for today and tomorrow, and its higher education institutions are among the best in the world.
Pennsylvania ranks among the top five states producing the most STEM graduates in the U.S., is home to six of the top 100 U.S. universities, and has the largest alumni network in the United States thanks to Penn State University. Through Governor Wolf’s PA Smart initiative, the commonwealth is investing $30 million in STEM and computer science education and apprenticeship programs that give students and workers hands-on experience while gaining valuable employment skills.
Technology is inspiring innovation and driving our economy across Pennsylvania.
In recent reports from Brookings, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were highlighted for their innovation corridors, micro-housing, dynamic cluster networks, comprehensive neighborhood revitalization, labor market participation, and local entrepreneurship. Some key players driving the growth of innovation districts are Comcast, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Drexel University, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. In fact, CMU is ranked among the top 10 Most Innovative Schools in the country.
A thriving innovation ecosystem supports Pennsylvania’s technology industry. Key components of this system are the state’s exceptional regional economic development partners, like the Ben Franklin Technology Partners and the PA Life Sciences Greenhouses, which provide access to critical venture capital and impactful collaborations between higher education, research institutions, and businesses. It has the seventh-largest net tech industry employment in the U.S., with more than 425,000 jobs and an average annual wage of more than $98,000.
From urban cityscapes to countryside communities and everything in between, Pennsylvania offers the perfect place to live and work.
Vibrant metropolitan hubs, cultural attractions, tranquil state parks and forests, charming small towns, and national historical sites exist in virtually every part of Pennsylvania — enjoyable over all four distinct seasons. Residents are never far from one of the state’s 121 state parks, 20 ski resorts, seven professional sports teams, or 86,000 miles of streams and rivers. Pennsylvania’s cost of living is ranked the best in the Northeast, and residents across the state have an average commute time of only 26.5 minutes. All of this makes for happy employees, no matter what their interests or hobbies. That’s why our motto is Work Smart. Live Happy.
Pennsylvania is a great place to start any business, whether it’s a tech startup, small business, corporate headquarters — or whatever entrepreneurs dream up next. Regardless of a business’s size or industry, they’ll find supportive community partners and enriching natural and cultural resources here that present a vibrant, uniquely Pennsylvanian quality of life. Pennsylvania recognizes the importance of placemaking, and is investing in its people, communities, and businesses to ensure that it’s a place where everyone can live, thrive, and invest in their future.
Interested in expanding or relocating a business in Pennsylvania? Start the conversation with the Governor’s Action Team. Interested in starting a business, or looking for advice on current business operations? For entrepreneurs and small business owners, visit the PA Business One-Stop Shop website to learn more about operating and growing your start-up or small business in PA. Continue to stay up-to-date on all Pennsylvania business news by following DCED on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, and signing up for our monthly e-newsletter for additional #PASmallBiz tips.
As Executive Director of the Governor’s Action Team, Brent Vernon leads a dynamic team of economic development professionals who work on the front line of Pennsylvania’s business attraction and retention activities. Brent has more than 25 years of professional experience serving in state and federal economic and workforce development positions.