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Hillsborough takes big step toward landing Amazon | News

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Hillsborough takes big step toward landing Amazon
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Tampa, FL -- You get the feeling if Amazon.com were single, the Hillsborough County Commission would be getting down on its knee to propose. 

"I think what we are approving today is a very small dowry a potential great corporate community marriage," said Commissioner Kevin Beckner.

Board chair Ken Hagan agreed. "This is an outstanding opportunity," he said.

And County Commissioner Sandy Murman likened it it to a hurricane with Amazon's feeder-bands attracting more businesses, creating a mega-storm of job growth for our region.

"This is fiscal responsibility," said Murman.

On Wednesday commissioners started the ball rolling to turn an empty field in Ruskin into a mega-warehouse fulfillment center at the South Shore corporate park.

To do that, they voted unanimously to designate Amazon as a "Qualified Target Industry" or QTI.

They also offered generous tax incentives, but with strings attached.

"The company has to deliver on a promise before any payments are made by this county," said Economic Development Director Ron Barton.

That promise? Amazon has vowed to create 1,000 jobs... 375 of which would be higher-wage, higher quality positions. In exchange, Amazon gets $225,000 spread out over four years.

But the bigger incentive is a huge ad-valorem tax break for six years once the center opens in 2016.

The 50% reduction in property taxes is worth about a million dollars annually.

Critics question why small business aren't offered such breaks and whether the incentives are really a good deal.

Amazon's lower-paying jobs, they argue, could also increase reliance on subsidized housing and tax-payer funded social services.

"The board is starting down a slippery slope of giving tax benefits to a select few at the expense of the taxpayers of Hillsborough County," said Elizabeth Belcher from Seffner.

But county officials say right now, the proposed site is just unimproved property generating almost no taxes. So they say even half of the estimated $1.8 million a year Amazon would pay is a welcome infusion for the county's coffers.

"I don't see any downside here whatsoever," said Commissioner Victor Crist.

There will likely be more criticism for the proposed ad-valorem tax break when the public is invited to comment during a meeting on the proposal, Wednesday July 17.

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