Did Governor Wolf tip his hand in the Amazon HQ2 bid strategy?

“We can go to Jeff Bezos, ‘we’re not going to give you money, we’re going to put our money into things that matter to you,’” offered Governor Tom Wolf to a group of 50 technology executives at a Rivers Club function Tuesday put on by the Pittsburgh Technology Council.

Gov. Wolf speaking to the Pittsburgh Technology Council. Photo by David Radin.

This statement, combined with previous statements in his address about things that will power innovation in cities like Pittsburgh, may offer a glimpse of the Commonwealth’s strategy in bidding for Amazon’s second headquarters, known as HQ2. Both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia made the list of top 20 cities still under consideration. To date, neither city has revealed its bid to the public, although, according to Philly.com, the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records Wednesday gave Philadelphia 30 days to release its bid.

Following Governor Wolf’s thinking, it may be more enticing to Amazon, and perhaps other tech companies looking to set up shop in the state, to provide a set of benefits that would help the company grow, instead of tax incentives which help the bottom line, but don’t usually contribute to growth.

During his presentation, Governor Wolf focused on the types of actions needed to support the growth of innovative companies in the state, which he labeled “the revolution happening here in Pittsburgh.” Those actions include enhancing education at all levels to create a better workforce, filling in the gaps in broadband coverage and making the infrastructure better. “Pittsburgh would die to have a Septa,” he said, referring to Philadelphia’s regional mass transit service, “although anyone in Philadelphia will tell you that’s not a high bar. We have to do better with infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth.”

Tech Council migrates north

The Pittsburgh Technology Council has agreed to move to Nova Place on the North Shore from its current home on the northern shore of the Monongahela River in Hazelwood just east of Downtown. By moving to Nova Place, the complex that was known as Allegheny Center before being purchased by Faros Properties and turned into a modern high-tech campus, the Council joins a number of other technology stalwarts who have congregated there for the environment, comradery and proximity to Downtown.

“Moving to Nova Place gives us more space for events and more opportunity to hang out with our members, many of whom have offices there.” said Jonathan Kersting, vice president of communications and media for the Council. “We’ll be right in the middle of the cross traffic and in the thick of the tech community.”

Pittsburgh Technology Council has been in its current space for 22 years. It began in a small office on Henry Street in Oakland, where it stayed for 12 years after its founding.

Ron Bianchini, three others to be honored by Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association

The Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association (PVCA) this week announced winners of its Entrepreneur of the Year Awards: Ron Bianchini, president of Avere Systems, Marc Malandro, founding member of the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute, and Joe Ferrara and Norman Sadeh, both executives of Wombat Security Technologies.

Unlike most local entrepreneur awards honoring executives based on how well they’ve grown their current companies, the PVCA awards signify outstanding contributions to the Pittsburgh region’s entrepreneurial and economic vitality.

In addition to running their day jobs at technology companies, each of these winners has significant involvement in external groups or activities that grow the Pittsburgh tech economy. That includes Bianchini as board member at Innovation Works, and Ferrara and Malandro as board members at the Pittsburgh Technology Council.

During 2018, Avere was acquired by Microsoft and Wombat was acquired by Proofpoint. Although both acquiring companies are based outside the region, they are expected to continue to maintain significant workforces in Pittsburgh.

The awards luncheon will take place on May 15 at the Fairmont Hotel, Downtown.

Upcoming business, career & networking events

Behavior Change and Patient Engagement: The Endgame for Gamification in Healthcare
Tuesday, May 8, 5 – 8 p.m. at Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse

BlockChain & Its Application to Businesses
Tuesday, May 8, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at AlphaLab Gear

The Future of eSports
Wednesday, May 9, 5:30 – 8 p.m. at The Stage at Karma

2018 STEM Summit
Thursday, May 10, 7:15 a.m. – 3:15 p.m. at Robert Morris University

Google Analytics Workshop
Thursday, May 10, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at Point Park University, Lawrence Hall Ballroom