The news that Amazon will build distribution centers in Florida is particularly rewarding for Manatee County - with the first warehouse planned for Ruskin, just north of Port Manatee over the county line into Hillsborough. The potential for Manatee residents earning Amazon paychecks is great as are additional home sales and other economic benefits.
This comes as somewhat of a surprise given Gov. Rick Scott's initial opposition to landing the Seattle-based retail behemoth. Some three weeks ago we took the governor to task for rejecting Amazon's pitch to build distribution centers and create thousands of new jobs in Florida in an editorial that cited his "wrong-headed ideological principle against 'new' taxes."
For some inexplicable reason, Scott determined Floridians would be paying a "new tax" on Amazon purchases should the popular online retailer establish a brick-and-mortars presence in the Sunshine State. But state residents are already required by law to remit the sales tax on Internet purchases to the state -- though that responsibility is roundly ignored by consumers.
But kudos to the governor for coming around -- embracing the incredible number of potential jobs, some 3,000 by 2016, and a total investment of $300 million statewide. About a third of those jobs are headed to a 1-million-square-foot warehouse in Ruskin. The company's gigantic "state of the art facility" will be a boon to contractors and construction workers, too.
In announcing the deal Thursday, the Scott administration portrayed his change not as a policy reversal but as a "culmination of ongoing discussions." But as an unpopular "let's get to work" jobs governor up for re-election next year, reality suggests his economic advisers and campaign team won the day on this issue. And rightly so.
One of the best outcomes of the Ruskin addition to the region's economic muscle is that 375 of the 1,000 jobs will be "higher-wage quality jobs" paying an average of $47,581.
The downside is Floridians will now pay the usual 6 percent state sales tax on Amazon purchases, which the retailer will collect at the point of purchase. A 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling requires Internet retailers to collect sales taxes only in states where the companies operate physical facilities.
Florida's Legislature has been lobbied for years to adopt a law requiring all Internet retailers to collect sales taxes -- simply in order to level the competitive playing field with the thousands of small and large stores in the state.
Those efforts have failed to date, even with the powerful support of the state's two largest business advocacy groups, Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. This sensible legislation should be resurrected next year.
In the meantime, we welcome Amazon's plan to place major distribution centers in Florida, especially in our back yard. This is a coup worth celebrating.