Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry’s administration expressed uneasiness Wednesday about a vote shooting down a new round of tax breaks for an Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) fulfillment center coming to town. The city’s top economic development leader doesn’t want Amazon or other prospects looking to bring jobs to Fort Wayne to think the city is not a friendly place for companies to do business.
The planned $100 million investment will be Amazon’s first fulfillment center in Indiana to use innovative and advanced robotics technology. When it opens in 2022, it’s expected to have a payroll of at least 1,000 workers who will get paid more than $15.00 per hour.
The project already received a sizeable tax abatement on the new building itself. City council Tuesday night, by a vote of 5 to 3, rejected a second abatement request on the machinery Amazon will use inside the facility.
The vote costs the IT giant more than $7 million in tax breaks over 10 years.
During talks with city leaders, we’re told it was communicated to Amazon officials what incentives the company would qualify for if it did what it was supposed to do in the abatement application process.
The Henry administration contends Amazon followed through, but that because of the council vote on abatement number two, it could be argued the city didn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
Republican city councilman Tom Didier, who’s running for mayor in two years, voted ‘yes’ on the second abatement request. He struggles to understand the push back against Amazon.
“If they followed all those guidelines, why did we vote it down last night? I understand that people are going, oh, Amazon doesn’t need it, that’s not the point. The point is, if we want other businesses to come in, are we going to pick and choose? That’s not my job,” Didier said.
“To take an application request to city council for abatement that met all the policies, checked all the boxes of the abatement policy, to have it fail is disappointing and we’re concerned about the message that may send to the dozens of other prospects we’re working with who are looking at other communities as well,” said Nancy Townsend, the city of Fort Wayne’s Community Development Director.
Opponents of this latest Amazon abatement request voiced a number of reservations, citing concerns about Amazon’s worker safety record, the company’s resistance to unions, that tax abatements should be used to lure companies to a community, not to cut their taxes once the decision is already made and some also complain that tax breaks aren’t appropriate for one of the world’s richest companies.