Friday, May 25, 2018
News Roundup

Hillsborough commissioners approve more Amazon incentives

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners on Wednesday enthusiastically approved a second package of incentives aimed at luring online retailer Amazon to build one of its giant "fulfillment centers" near Interstate 75 in Ruskin.

"I think it's exciting," said Commissioner Sandra Murman. "And I just think it's going to bring so much opportunity for the people in that area."

Repeating their grand slam comparisons of earlier discussions, commissioners voted 6-0 to waive half of the county portion of Amazon's property tax bill for the first seven years after it builds the center, or about $6.4 million. Commissioner Kevin Beckner was absent.

Commissioners voted last month to approve $1.1 million more to be paid out in installments over four years in exchange for the company creating 375 "well-paying" jobs. Those are defined as paying 15 percent more than the average state wage, or $47,581.

County economic development officials say the company is proposing to spend $200 million on a new, 1-million-square-foot distribution warehouse and equipment. In all, the company says it would create 1,000 permanent jobs there, ranging in pay.

The distribution center would be located on 70 acres of the South Shore Corporate Park, a nearly 1,000-acre expanse near I-75 developed in 2007 as the economy was tumbling toward recession. It has sat empty since.

Some commissioners noted that returning half the property taxes for the Amazon center is a bargain since the complex is bringing in little in taxes now.

"One hundred percent of nothing is nothing," said Commissioner Mark Sharpe.

Hillsborough is not guaranteed to land Amazon. News reports have cited other potential suitors after Gov. Rick Scott announced that the company planned to make a $300 million investment in the state and create 3,000 jobs.

Earlier this month, Polk County commissioners approved a $4.5 million incentive package for what is described as a smaller distribution center with fewer jobs in Lakeland. Materials from the state indicate that Amazon is expected to announce a location or locations by the end of the month.

An attempt to reach an Amazon representative was unsuccessful.

Hillsborough County Economic Development Director Ron Barton said he expects to hear soon whether Amazon has chosen Ruskin, a location it identified on its own without county assistance. He said it is his understanding that the company wants to break ground as soon as possible with the hope of operating as soon as the 2014 Christmas holiday shopping season.

"We hope we will hear good news from Amazon, hopefully in the next couple of weeks," he said.

In other action, commissioners voted 6-0 to support giving $2.2 million to an as-yet-unidentified global life sciences company that is pledging to create 579 "higher-wage, quality jobs." County officials said they could not yet identify the company.

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