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Guest view: In praise of regional Amazon bid

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It's been a week of stark contrasts.

Jim Mooney
Jim Mooney - ()

Start with Steve Case and The Rise of the Rest visiting our region to mine for an entrepreneur worthy of a $100,000 investment. After weighing over a hundred entries, this culminated in a Shark Tank-like pitch competition at Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center between nine local start-ups finalists representing industries from agriculture to healthcare and technologies from robotics to software.

Pretty cool right?

Prior to the competition, AOL co-founder Steve Case remarked on the strength of our region after his trip through Lancaster, York and Harrisburg and pointed out just how silly it seemed that a river played any part in distinguishing one area from another. Bingo.

Also present were Governor Tom Wolf and Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, who spoke to the vibrancy of Central Pennsylvania and Harrisburg, especially the downtown, which is home to nearly 20 successful technology companies employing over 800 people, not to mention Harrisburg University and the Sci-Tech Campus for Harrisburg School District. Little wonder why it was recently recognized as being the 12th Best Metro Area for STEM Professionals.

Within the last seven days, we also learned of the joint effort by state and local governments, colleges, chambers of commerce and many others headed by the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and Capital Region Economic Development Corp. (CREDC) to submit a proposal to Amazon for their second headquarters on the old State Hospital grounds.

Are we a long shot? Sure, but what a great team effort that will, if nothing else, improve communications between key players, expand the vision of what we can offer as a region, brainstorm solutions to our shortcomings and, above all, lift us up because that’s what leaders do.

What else do we know about Central Pennsylvania? How about low cost of living, short commutation times, nationally recognized arts programming, not to mention Harrisburg, and its environs, being recognized as:

  • 5th friendliest small city in America
  • 6th best city in America for young adults to get rich
  • 34th in the Best Places to Live in the U.S.
  • Among the top 10 cities for first-time homebuyers

Puff out that chest, stick out that chin. We Central Pennsylvanians can be very proud of our home.

Now for the contrast. An Oct. 6 article in the Central Penn Business Journal on the Amazon HQ2 proposal quoted a local elected official as saying, "This region is not prepared — if for no other reason than the mass transit issue, but probably lots more."

Wow. Imagine what you’d do if your child’s teacher told you, "Let’s face it, he’s not going to amount to much," or if Penn State football coach James Franklin prepped his players by saying, "Michigan is probably going to beat you, so go out there and try not to get hurt."

Give me the player that strikes out swinging. I’ll take the dreamers, the visionaries, the true leaders that put their heart, soul and savings into a brand-new venture because they believe in themselves and their team over the "realists" any day.

Win or lose, all the folks that entered the Rise of the Rest competition along with the staff of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and CREDC are the type of leaders I chose to follow: Leaders with vision and heart.

James C. Mooney is CEO of Enginuity, a mechanical contractor based in Hampden Township, Cumberland County,. He also is chairman of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber.

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