Resident POV: Does an E-Commerce Fulfillment Center Improve Quality of Life for the Local Community?
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I find it fascinating that I can go onto my computer, open a browser, and add items to a virtual shopping cart, and have that cart delivered in a matter of a few days. There is no arguing that there is a great level of convenience, but until recently, I hadn’t really thought a lot about how this supply chain might be either positively or negatively impact communities outside my own. For certain, I prefer to shop locally – helps the local community and keeps people employed, and receive excellent advice from the salesperson. If there is a problem, I have a place to go back. But sometimes you just can’t get a product locally and eCommerce is a great option.
If I were an e-commerce business without a conscience, poorer communities with higher unemployment rates would seem to be a great choice to develop a distribution complex. The promise of warehouse jobs paying $15 per hour might be very attractive. Tax revenue may help to improve local infrastructure and offset the costs of additional road maintenance, for example. If I were a town planner, it sounds like an offer too good to be true. So let’s take a look at University Park outside of Chicago.
A developer proposed a massive project including promises of jobs etc. However there was a catch, the town had to agree to $100M in tax breaks to help pay for it. The vote was pushed through the town’s system and in such haste that there was effectively no public input. A lone trustee voted against the project and was interviewed by NPR and here is an excerpt from the NPR interview:
“You’d think Amazon coming would lift people’s spirits, but we’re still feeling a sense of depression,” said Theo Brooks, the lone University Park trustee to vote against the deal during that 20-minute special meeting on March 13.
“You come home to a majority Black town, and there’s no grocery store, no life in the town center and crumbling streets,” Brooks said in an interview. “Amazon isn’t putting more police officers on the street. Amazon isn’t helping me with my taxes.”
Indeed, since 2015 Amazon has been expanding their footprint in Chicago with $741M in tax breaks and one would suggest taking advantage of these communities. With reduced tax income, of course the towns’ struggle to adequately offset it increased town costs. I think it would be quite shortsided to think that Hudson would not also be a target for these tax breaks and incentives.
Let us explore just a few local examples:
Andover MA - $27M tax breaks I believe over a ten year period
Boston - $10M tax break to expand into the Boston seaport district
Worcester – While the deal didn’t go through Worcester proposed $100M in tax incentives for Amazon for the H2 headquarters project.
Stoughton - $28M over a ten year period
Fall River – 15 year deal estimated around $100M
Milford – Seems to have a deal in place, but I didn’t readily find the figures.
Developers make a pitch that is too good to be true, then their big e-commerce client and its team of lawyers put the pinch on the town. The town is left with the aftermath and an eroded tax structure that doesn’t help improve the community. While job creation is a good thing for many communities, Hudson really doesn’t seem to have any employment issues (as of October '20 Hudson had an unemployment rate of 4.1%).
So next time you are ready to click the “add to cart” button consider for a moment the quote from Mr. Theo Brooks above - “Amazon isn’t putting more police officers on the street. Amazon isn’t helping me with my taxes.”