Pa. political strife could hurt business prospects

Pennsylvania's capitol dome against the blue sky

Pennsylvania's state Capitol dome (AP)

As Pennsylvania contends with a months-late budget and recently downgraded bond rating, it’s also working hard to entice Amazon to set up a secondary headquarters in one of its cities.

The situation raises a question: could the political turmoil deter businesses?

Some pro-business leaders believe that, in certain cases, it’s a possibility.

Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, typically takes the position that a state’s tax structure, business incentives, and pension costs — among other things — determine whether companies will want to put down roots.

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He said the stalled budget and recent credit hit — which put Pennsylvania’s rating among the bottom five states — aren’t cause for panic.

But, he added, they do have an effect.

“People are going to say, ehh, you guys didn’t comply with what we all know you were supposed to do before, so I have to think twice about that,” he said.

“When suddenly you have businesses that aren’t getting paid — which is what has happened in previous years when the budget has gone late — yeah, you’re going to think about whether you want to do business with the government.”

But will the stalemate really keep major deals from happening?

Barr doesn’t think it’s that straightforward.

He said the commonwealth’s high-profile bid to land Amazon — Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well as other Pennsylvania towns and regions, are courting the retail giant — is probably still solid, for instance.

“They want a critical mass of higher education, they want a largely urbanized setting, they want mass transit, they want workforce — we’ve got a lot of that,” he said.

Amazon hasn’t answered questions about its criteria for a state to house its new worksite.

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