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Pa. Governor speaks on states football success!

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Pa. wins with Steelers, Eagles

Governor says twin playoff teams boost state's image

Thursday, January 20, 2005

By Tom Barnes, PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE

HARRISBURG -- The success of the Steelers and Eagles is generating more than just headlines and hoopla.

Gov. Ed Rendell says the excitement generated by the teams is increasing interest in Pennsylvania's quality of life and probably even played a role in attracting a New York firm to open a branch operation in Erie.

Rendell told reporters at the state Capitol yesterday that during the first quarter of the Steelers game against the New York Jets on Saturday, he "sealed the deal" with the chairman and president of the firm as they watched the game from the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority's luxury box at Heinz Field.

"The impact [of such a game]is hard to quantify, but it's significant," Rendell said. "During the game, the chairman of the company said, 'We're coming to Erie. There's great enthusiasm here. All the people in the state have been terrific.' "

Rendell's aide, Kate Philips, said later that the precise location of the plant, as well as financing for the move, are still being worked out, so the company's name, its type of product and its number of workers can't be released yet.

Rendell said the company plans to come to Pennsylvania regardless of whether Pittsburgh or Philadelphia plays in the big game on Feb. 6. But company officials also asked him: "If either the Steelers or Eagles make it, can we get tickets to the Super Bowl?"

Rendell said that one major factor corporations use in deciding where to locate a plant or a branch "is what's called quality of place. That means what things are there to do. And sports ranks right up there with arts and culture in that category. So to have successful teams and this amount of enthusiasm does have a positive effect."

Rendell said that while the attention given to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia can't hurt efforts to increase tourism and visitors, it's too soon to say if there's been any noticeable increase in that regard.

Rendell, who was mayor of Philadelphia for most of the 1990s, recalled that when the movie "Philadelphia" came out in 1993, European travel agents reported "a 10-fold increase in requests for information about Philadelphia."

So, he added, "With Philadelphia and Pittsburgh being in the news now because of something this visible, I think it helps people think about Pennsylvania."

The most immediate benefit of the football teams' success, he said, is higher sales tax revenues from "the almost incredible purchases" of Steelers and Eagles T-shirts and other paraphernalia.

"I can't quantify that yet, but it's very positive," he said.

In terms of short-term economic spinoffs, "Jacksonville will be getting a plus from the tourism dollars of all those Steelers and Eagles fans" if the Pennsylvania teams win.

Rendell can't make it to Heinz Field Sunday to watch the Steelers take on the New England Patriots. He will be at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia in the afternoon to watch the Eagles-Falcons game, and then is contractually obligated to be part of a Comcast SportsNet post-game commentary show.

But he said he'll definitely be watching the Steelers on TV and rooting for them.

"My admiration for what the Steelers have done this year is incredible," he said. "Ben Roethlisberger, donating last week's check to the relief of the tsunami victims, is a great talent and an inspiring young man."

He said he's even looking ahead to whether he might have to reschedule his annual state budget address, now set for Feb. 8, if either the Steelers or Eagles win the Super Bowl on Feb. 6. There might be a big parade and celebration in the winning city on the Tuesday after the game, an event he would want to attend, so it could mean a postponement of the message.

Asked what happens if neither Pennsylvania team makes it to the Super Bowl, Rendell said, "I'd be crushed.

"I can hardly think of anything worse that could happen to the entire state." he said. "We're a great sports state, a great football state. There aren't any two pro teams that have as devoted a following as the Eagles and Steelers. They stay with the teams through thick and thin."

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