Article featured on LancasterOnline.

The question of how a gigantic new Amazon headquarters could affect Lancaster grew more urgent Thursday, when the company chopped the list of 238 applicants to 20 finalists.

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh made the cut, along with Montgomery County in Maryland, northern Virginia, and Washington D.C.

Local leaders say having Amazon nearby could be a mixed bag, with potential impacts on housing, transportation, the workforce and tourism.

Joel Walker is CEO of Lancaster-based tech company Industrial Resolution and a prominent cheerleader for expansion of the tech industry in Lancaster.

“Given the attractiveness of Lancaster City and county living, the increasing comfort with remote work culture, and the short train ride to Philly, there would undoubtedly be an influence on Lancaster’s economy, specifically in the real estate market and the job market,” he said Thursday.

Walker expects that more tech workers would move to Lancaster if Philadelphia wins, and also that the tech giant might tempt programmers currently working here.

He also favors a suggestion that mayors on the short list “form a pact to say no to incentives Amazon will expect.”

“I am aware of his philanthropic gifts,” Walker said of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, “but I still think it’s ridiculous for him to bring such a monolithic institution to any city and expect that the ‘Winning City’ will be so grateful that they should release Amazon from key taxes, forcing established residents to bear the burden instead.”

‘Immeasurable impact

David Barr, president of Lancaster-based digital solutions agency Williams Forrest, said the impact could be “immeasurable,” resulting in “all manner of talented resources relocating to the region as well as the potential for new business relationships between Amazon and local companies.”

At the macro level, Lancaster Chamber CEO and President Tom Baldrige said, Amazon picking either Pennsylvania option would be “certainly good news, because anything that helps the Pennsylvania tax base helps all of Pennsylvania be more competitive.”

Locally, he said, a location in Philadelphia “might be the best of both worlds, because it’s close enough that here could be some residual positive impact, but it’s far enough away that it wouldn’t completely decimate what is already a very tight workforce market in Lancaster.”

Lisa Riggs, president of the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County, previously said she wrote Amazon supporting Philly’s bid and thought it winning would, on whole, affect the region positively.

Thursday she said that any impacts on Lancaster would likely be indirect, and “we really just have to sit tight until it gets much further in the pipeline.”

Whichever city Amazon picks, she said, should have an overall economic development strategy that takes existing businesses in neighboring communities into account.

$5 billion investment

Amazon plans to invest more than $5 billion and hire up to 50,000 workers at the site it chooses, with total square footage requirements of up to 8 million square feet — roughly roughly six times the size of Park City shopping center.

The company also says construction and ongoing operation “is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.”

Neither Pennsylvania, nor Philadelphia nor Pittsburgh have revealed what financial incentives they offered Amazon.

However, The Inquirer in Philadelphia reported in October that Rob Wonderling, president of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, said Pennsylvania officials aimed to offer the company more than $1 billion in tax incentives if the state was selected.

Gov. Tom Wolf issued a statement Thursday saying his administration “will continue to support these locations by making the case to Amazon that Pennsylvania is a unique and tremendous place to build a business, make a home, and pursue your happiness.”