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Who gets hurt when cities kowtow to Amazon

I have a message for politicians everywhere. It's time to stop bending over backwards for Big Tech and time ...

Posted: Jan 9, 2019 5:09 AM
Updated: Jan 9, 2019 5:09 AM

I have a message for politicians everywhere. It's time to stop bending over backwards for Big Tech and time to start listening to local businesses, which have been critical to growing our cities -- and our country.

By now, everyone has learned that New York city and state have persuaded the corporate leviathan Amazon to build its next headquarters in Queens. They did this by offering the company $3 billion in tax incentives and state grants. But New York was not the only city to bid for Amazon's next office. Elected officials in at least 20 cities -- from Los Angeles to Boston -- were tripping over themselves to offer Amazon their own sweetheart packages.

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Such special treatment is not given to everyone. Local business owners, like me, find ourselves increasingly subject to fees and permitting expenses -- such as the byzantine corporate franchise taxes -- imposed by the same officials wooing Amazon with a favorable deal.

A particularly galling example of this disconnect? As some New York city and state politicians courted Jeff Bezos, others were deciding it would be OK to add to my expenses by requiring my Manhattan bookstore -- the third-generation-owned, 91-year-old Strand -- to be designated as a landmark building.

This alleged honorific would present me with a regulatory nightmare: When any building is designated a landmark, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission henceforth must approve all building changes -- from window repair and signage adjustment to the type of mortar used to repair a crack in the walls. The labyrinthine process for such approval places a burden that would cost us time and money -- as it does every other small business that is so designated. Maintaining the building would require hiring landmarking experts, architects and lawyers. This additional cost, on top of our already thin margins, could very well grind the Strand into bankruptcy.

After spending the majority of his life working at the Strand and saving his money for more than 60 years, my father, Fred Bass, purchased the building housing the Strand in 1996 to ensure the survival of his business. Ironically, his investment could be the undoing of his life's work.

Though there is one more hearing at which we can argue our case against landmark status, the odds are unlikely to favor us. The city has made clear its intention to force through the designation.

And now, as one group of New York City bureaucrats lands Amazon's next headquarters, another group of them fails to see the significance of protecting a working bookstore with 238 employees.

The Amazon deal is not directly related to the city's landmark commission proposal for the Strand -- but the situation certainly throws the irony of cities' kowtowing to Big Tech while they allow other businesses to suffer into sharp relief. And it's happening everywhere.

Take Reno, Nevada. Tesla received a $1.4 billion tax incentive to build a battery factory outside Reno. As public services have been decimated by depleted funding -- to pay for the incentive -- and an influx of out-of-state workers caused a spike in living costs, the longtime working-class residents have been left behind, many descending into poverty and homelessness.

Another high-profile handout is Foxconn, the huge Taiwanese manufacturer, which picked up more than $4 billion from Wisconsin taxpayers, courtesy of Wisconsin politicians, to build a plant in the southeastern corner of the state. Environmental regulations, a significant expense for any of Foxconn's local competitors, have been waived for the firm's development. And a portion of the 13,000 blue-collar jobs promised will now go to Taiwanese workers instead.

The fact is unless we stop them, local and state politicians will continue to advantage Big Tech over longstanding local businesses. And without the powerful team of lawyers necessary to take on City Hall, small businesses will continue to suffer.

This dismal reality demands immediate action, as local businesses serve a critical role in our cities. They are meeting places, cultural destinations and even town halls. If they cease to exist, we lose the character of our communities and the sweat equity of our neighbors. We forfeit the American promise of hard work and self-reliance.

There are alternative spending options for our local officials besides cash for jobs. Rather than importing Big Tech, identify strengths and weaknesses of local industry sectors and present financial support in terms of training and technology development to build on what current taxpayers have already started. Local money then stays local.

Do not simply focus on the political expediency of manufacturing gains: Recognize, too, the importance of service industry jobs in supporting the economy. And remember that education and infrastructure are high-impact investments that strengthen small businesses and their customer base.

The message to politicians is clear: Get your priorities in order and focus on the local issues that affect the businesses that have made, and will continue to make, your cities great.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 115763

Reported Deaths: 3263
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7973177
DeSoto703979
Harrison522384
Jackson457884
Rankin394086
Madison383194
Lee357380
Forrest304678
Jones292484
Washington258399
Lafayette250443
Lauderdale2478135
Lamar225538
Oktibbeha202454
Bolivar201677
Neshoba1849111
Lowndes179962
Panola170040
Leflore167187
Sunflower162349
Warren154855
Monroe150673
Pontotoc147220
Marshall143129
Lincoln140157
Pike138456
Copiah137536
Scott125429
Coahoma124937
Grenada122638
Yazoo122234
Simpson121549
Union118825
Tate116839
Leake115041
Holmes114760
Itawamba113925
Pearl River113660
Adams108544
Prentiss106120
Wayne101722
Alcorn100112
George99218
Covington97527
Marion95042
Tippah90322
Newton86627
Chickasaw85526
Tallahatchie84526
Winston84121
Hancock84028
Tishomingo81241
Attala79426
Clarke75851
Clay69321
Jasper68717
Walthall63927
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59817
Smith59416
Montgomery54923
Yalobusha54514
Claiborne53716
Tunica53517
Lawrence51814
Perry49423
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47514
Humphreys43816
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41011
Webster37613
Benton3416
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32615
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27610
Franklin2423
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 158701

Reported Deaths: 2680
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23292377
Mobile16916315
Tuscaloosa10345140
Montgomery10250197
Madison935096
Shelby739063
Baldwin665869
Lee654665
Calhoun459961
Marshall439550
Etowah428551
Houston417034
Morgan416435
DeKalb342629
Elmore320853
St. Clair295542
Limestone287230
Walker279492
Talladega266435
Cullman248024
Lauderdale229442
Jackson215915
Autauga205931
Franklin205531
Colbert202132
Russell19493
Blount193225
Chilton188432
Dallas186627
Coffee177111
Dale176351
Covington174729
Escambia172730
Clarke135217
Chambers135044
Pike134113
Tallapoosa132987
Marion108129
Barbour10339
Marengo101922
Butler101140
Winston92913
Geneva9067
Lawrence85832
Pickens85218
Bibb84014
Randolph82716
Hale76830
Washington74912
Clay74412
Cherokee73814
Henry7176
Lowndes71328
Bullock64917
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60830
Perry5926
Fayette57713
Cleburne5698
Wilcox56812
Conecuh56113
Macon53620
Lamar4965
Sumter47221
Choctaw39212
Greene34216
Coosa2043
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