Hey Alexa, tell Gov. Wolf state is bigger than Pittsburgh and Philadelphia

Amazon is zeroing in on a home for its second headquarters, known as HQ2, and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are both strong favorites to be the chosen city.

This comes as no surprise to the Pennsylvanians living outside of our state’s two major cities who are routinely left out of major economic development programs by Governor Wolf.

Wolf’s urban-elite favoritism is bad. His refusal to be square with the public about just how much of their money would be diverted from education and small business initiatives that are critical to middle-class suburban and rural communities to help subsidize the expansion of one of the richest companies in the world is worse.

But the reason everyone else is rightfully up in arms is because Governor Wolf, who talked a great deal about accountability and transparency during his campaign, is spearheading the mission to keep Pennsylvanians in the dark about his proposal.

Gov. Wolf went so far as to sue to block the release of the details of his offering.

The Governor’s actions are not only a betrayal of his campaign promise but also an affront to the office he occupies. Gov. Wolf is supposed to serve all of Pennsylvania, not cut backroom deals to line the pockets of his friends in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Taxpayers and small business owners in Lancaster and Johnstown deserve just as much as a voice as those in Center City and Squirrel Hill.

Gov. Wolf giving unprecedented amounts of corporate welfare would almost certainly mean that programs to support rural small businesses and other statewide economic development initiatives will be gutted.

This will have a devastating impact, considering the fact that rural Pennsylvania already lost more than 96,000 jobs between 2007 and 2017 – and it is worth pointing out that Pennsylvania’s city’s gained more than 145,000 jobs during the same time.

One of the driving forces of widespread job losses in rural Pennsylvania is because lawmakers have failed to make investments in digital infrastructure that would enable businesses operating outside of major metropolitan areas to participate and thrive in the 21st century digital economy.

Take Susquehanna County, for example, where only about 1 in 4 people have access to wired broadband at speeds of 25mbps or faster. By comparison, 99 percent of Philadelphia has access to broadband at speeds of 100mbps or faster.

We need more programs like the recently announced broadband expansion initiative that aims to expand broadband access to homes and businesses across the state by providing $35 million in incentive funding to private providers.

Imagine how quickly Gov. Wolf could close this rural connectivity gap that makes it impossible for rural small businesses to compete in the digital economy if he saved the $1 billion being offered up in his Philadelphia/Pittsburgh offering and invested it in rural communities.

Instead, Gov. Wolf is pulling out all the stops to cozy up to Amazon in the hopes of landing HQ2. If the HQ2 bid is fair to all Pennsylvania taxpayers and the proposal stands to benefits rural and urban communities alike, Governor Wolf should have nothing to hide.

Sides is President of Robert M. Sides Family Music Centers in Williamsport.