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Thursday, Apr 24, 2014
Editorials

Amazon’s warehouse in Ruskin a big win for Hillsborough

Published:

As far as economic news in Hillsborough County is concerned, it doesn’t get much better than this.

By all indications, online retailer Amazon.com has chosen a site in Ruskin to build and operate a giant warehouse operation that will employ as many as 1,000 people, a third of them for annual salaries averaging nearly $50,000. The facility is expected to generate millions of dollars a year in local property taxes.

In addition to the local economic windfall, the state will also benefit by collecting the 6 percent sales tax on purchases made by Amazon’s customers in Florida.

County Commissioner Sandra Murman announced Thursday that the Seattle-based retailer has signed a long-term lease on the land where a 1-mllion-square foot warehouse will be built, and that construction will soon begin.

Amazon’s interest in Hillsborough was revealed in June, when Gov. Rick Scott announced the retailer was promising to invest $300 million by building facilities in the state that would employ 3,000 workers.

It appears Hillsborough hit the jackpot. Amazon will spend $200 million building its assembly and distribution center in Ruskin, where a third of those 3,000 workers will be employed. A smaller operation is also expected to open in Lakeland.

The deal represents the best possible use of economic incentives to create jobs and stimulate a local economy.

To lure Amazon to Ruskin, Hillsborough County commissioners agreed to exempt nearly $1 million in property taxes over the first seven years of its operations. That represents about half of the anticipated annual property tax bill. The county is also contributing $225,000 toward a package of incentives involving local and state money.

Plenty has been written about wasteful incentives given to companies that fail to deliver jobs. But Amazon is a proven retail giant that can be expected to contribute to the economy for years to come.

Critics also question whether the sales tax that will be assessed against online Amazon purchases in the state represents a tax increase for Floridians. Far from it. All online sales in the state should be assessed a sales tax, just as purchases from brick-and-mortar stores in the state are assessed.

In her announcement, Murman said the Amazon deal “is bigger than the Super Bowl, a National Convention or the Olympics.”

We’re not sure how valid those comparisons might be, but we are certain that landing Amazon is a major boost to a county badly damaged by the housing meltdown and weary from the lingering effects of the recession.

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