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Amazon considering huge jobs deal for Florida

3:15 PM, Jun 14, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Hillsborough County is in line to land a huge jobs deal.

Online retailer Amazon is proposing to build a 1-million square foot distribution warehouse in Ruskin that would create 1,000 jobs.

And that's just part of the blockbuster announcement from Amazon. The company wants to create a total of 3,000 jobs in Florida and spend $300 million to make it happen by 2016.

The Hillsborough County Commission will consider the proposal next week and decide whether to award Amazon more than $6 million in tax breaks to the company.

The commission's agenda reveals some details about the project.

The warehouse would be located near Interstate 75 and State Road 674. Amazon intends to spend $200 million to build what it calls a "state of the art facility." More than a third of the 1,000 jobs would pay about $47,000 a year.

But the project also means Amazon would start collecting sales taxes from Floridians on their purchases. The company does not currently collect sales tax in Florida because it does not have a physical presence in the state.

The Amazon announcement is a surprise. Just last month Gov. Rick Scott announced negotiations with Amazon had broken down, apparently because he was concerned the proposal would result in new taxes for Floridians.

But Gov. Scott is focusing on the huge influx of jobs from the proposal.

"Amazon's commitment to create more than 3,000 new jobs in Florida is further proof that we've turned our economy around. Amazon will continue to work with Enterprise Florida on its ongoing projects which will include a return on any taxpayer investment, and we look forward to the company's announcements as it chooses locations and creates jobs in Florida."

The Florida Retail Federation welcomes the news. It has been fighting for years to force online retailers to collect sales taxes because they can get a competitive advantage by not charging the tax. It's estimated Floridians are not paying as much as $800 million a year in sales taxes on Internet purchases.

Spokesman Rick McAllister said Florida retailers are relieved to hear Amazon will finally start collecting taxes.

"The question is how quickly can they get operating and how quickly can they start collecting the tax that has created a very unfair playing field for brick and mortar retailers for decades."

Now McAllister is calling on Gov. Rick Scott to encourage Florida's congressional delegation to support the Main Street Fairness Act. It would help states collect sales taxes from online retailers.

The legislation has already passed the U.S. Senate but faces a tougher road in the House. McAllister hopes the measure gets through Congress and is signed by the president.

"When it does everybody, not just Amazon, but everybody will be included in collecting the taxes legally owed by every consumer who purchases."

Dave Heller

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