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Photo: Idil Demirdag

Wharton students are helping city government officials pitch Philadelphia to the tech company Amazon. 

Teams of students met on Friday to take part in the final round of the Amazon HQ Case Competition. Students in the competition presented pitches to bring Amazon to Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney and other members of the city government.

Contestants entered under the subtopics of financial and tax incentives, talent base and employee life incentives, tech-focused incentives and legal incentives. Wharton professors, who judged the competition, selected one team from each category for the final round. Teams had seven minutes to present their pitches followed by three minutes to answer questions from the judges.

Teams Wharton Prime and Delphi tied as winners, but organizers stressed a need for an interdisciplinary pitch to Amazon. “All these teams have to work together,” said professor Saikat Chaudhuri.

Wharton Prime, which consisted of Wharton graduate students, focused their pitch on financial and tax incentives. Their strategies for making Philadelphia an enticing city to Amazon focused on enacting special tax and financial breaks for the company, including a lifetime income tax exemption and a 99-year ground lease at free or reduced rent. 

They also proposed appointing a designated “Amazon Happiness Officer” in the city government to deal with any concerns Amazon might have.

Team Delphi, which consists of undergraduates from the School of Engineering and Applied Science as well as the Wharton School, competed in the tech-focused incentives section. They recommended that Amazon could use infrastructure that the telecommunications company Comcast already has in place, to make Philadelphia a “smart city” and gain data about consumers.

Many students said they genuinely hoped Amazon would set up a headquarters in Philadelphia. Wharton and Engineering junior Johnathan Chen, a Delphi team member, said he would be excited to see Amazon use Comcast’s wireless infrastructure to make Philadelphia a "Smart City." 

Chen added he had “selfish reasons,” saying “I want a job at Amazon.”

Wharton graduate student Gavin Yerxa said Amazon jobs would be more desirable than jobs that are currently available for Philadelphia’s college graduates, including Wharton MBA graduates. 

“Not a lot of MBAs want an internship at Comcast,” he said.

Wharton Vice Dean Lori Rosenkopf said Amazon coming to Philadelphia would foster a closer relationship with Penn. “Amazon’s already a big hirer at Penn, and it’s already doing work with professors,” she said.

In his opening remarks, Kenney said that the city is committed to its campaign to bring a new Amazon campus to Philadelphia. 

“We are in it to win it, no doubt,” he said, adding “This city can do anything it sets its mind to.”

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