Permits for possible Amazon sites feeds rumors

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Speculation over Amazon’s Florida expansion got a little hotter this week as companies with ties to the retailing giant applied for permits in two Central Florida areas considered likely spots for new distribution centers.

For its part, Amazon is keeping quiet.  In an email Friday, the Seattle-based company said there was nothing to report about Amazon’s Florida plans.

Not easily dissuaded, local media outlets have recently uncovered a few clues to fuel the rumor mill.

The Lakeland Ledger reported last week that The Conlan Co., a contractor that already built an Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga, Tenn., received a permit from the City of Lakeland. The permit allows them to clear land that could be the site of one of Amazon’s “fulfillment centers.”

Another potential tip-off came from an affiliate of USAA, considered one of Amazon’s biggest landlords. On Sept. 19, the real estate company applied for building permits to develop land in Ruskin, seen as another possible location for a 1.1 million-square-foot warehouse.

The struggle to attract Amazon began in earnest when Gov. Rick Scott announced in June the company’s desire to bring more than 3,000 full-time jobs to the state by the end of 2016. This economic stimulus includes more than $300 million in construction investment for “more than one” fulfillment center.

The lure of new jobs sparked an intense rivalry between Central Florida counties, each making moves hoping to catch Amazon’s eye.

To start, Hillsborough County commissioners proposed $6.4 million in property-tax exemptions over seven years, as well as providing $225,000 as an incentive to build in Ruskin. The state’s Qualified Targeted Industries Tax Refund Program would provide a partial match of the funds.

Polk County commissioners, also inspired by the potential of an economic boost, approved 10 years of tax breaks, worth up to $4.5 million.

A number of other communities, including Palm Beach County, Orlando, Ocala, Winter Haven and Jacksonville have also made overtures to Amazon, promoting their regions as possible expansion sites.  

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.