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Polk makes bid for Amazon warehouse, jobs | News

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Polk makes bid for Amazon warehouse, jobs

Bartow, FL -- Polk County is now in the game to try and lure an Amazon warehouse to the Bay area.

Polk commissioners rolled out an incentive package Tuesday to try to bring the Internet retail giant and hundreds of jobs to the region. 

If they did come, it's thought the likely spot that Amazon would build in Polk County would be near the intersection of US 92 and County Line Road, just north of Publix headquarters.

To bring Amazon here, Polk commissioners are offering about $4.5 million in cash and tax incentives. The deal's structure is similar to the one Hillsborough County pitched just three weeks ago, but it's less money overall.

People who live and work near the proposed Amazon site in Lakeland say the area could use the estimated 385 jobs an Amazon fulfillment center would bring.

Jack Porter, a long-time Lakeland resident, says commissioners should do what they can to make it happen.

"The economy is bad to begin with. Anything that will bring new jobs into the area will help everyone out," said Porter.

To land those jobs, Polk County commissioners approved offering Amazon an incentives package, most of it in the form of a break on property taxes: a 75% reduction for 10 years.

"Businesses and companies coming to your area is very competitive these days and the fact of the matter is they're gonna go to where they can get the best deal," said Polk County Commissioner Ed Smith.

Amazon has said it wants to build several of its wholesale distribution centers in Florida, creating as many as 3,000 jobs.

Reports have said two of those sites could be somewhere along the I-4 corridor between Tampa and Orlando.

On June 19, Hillsborough County offered about $6.5 million worth of incentives to bring the warehouse to a site in Ruskin just west I-75.

But the Ruskin site is only about 43 miles from the proposed spot in Lakeland. Amazon could decide that's exactly what it wants.

But if a second center was built closer to Orlando, it may leave Hillsborough and Polk counties battling it out for a warehouse in this region.

As of Tuesday, Hillsborough County spokesman Willie Puz confirmed Hillsborough County still had not sealed a deal with Amazon.

Still, Polk commissioners say their best offer is now on the table, and have no intention of getting into a bidding war.

"I mean, we couldn't go any higher. This is what we have to do," said Polk County Chair Melony Bell. "We have a work chart that we have to work off of. I mean, that's what our ordinance says."

"Maybe there's a possibility they'll make a decision and want to put a warehouse in each area," said Smith, "we don't know. But we just want to be in the game. That's what we're saying here."

Other counties may decide to woo Amazon as well. If that happens, it may create even more competition.

Amazon will likely make its intention known in the next few months.

One big difference between Polk County's proposal and the offer from Hillsborough is the timing, and when residents could expect to see jobs coming to the area.

The Polk County plan calls for construction to begin in just a few months, with the warehouse possibly opening sometime late next year.

The proposed Hillsborough site would not open until 2016.



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