The Herald News, Sunday, November 9, 2014 – Page B2

The news the SouthCoast has been waiting to hear seems to be getting closer to reality every day. With all the necessary pieces appearing to be on the fast-track for approval before Christmas, local officials are expected to sign off on a tax incentive package that could deliver the jobs that our struggling area has long been waiting for.

Amazon.com has signed a letter of intent to build a one million-square-foot fulfillment center on 91 acres in the South Coast Life Sciences and Technology Park, which is expected to create 1,000 decent paying full-time jobs with benefits and hundreds of part-time and seasonal jobs as well. The site is located on 60 acres in Fall River and 31 acres in Freetown, requiring the approval of tax incentives from both communities.

On the local end, economic development officials are taking the right steps to ensure the project gets off the ground, creating hundreds of construction jobs. Fall River’s Tax Increment Financing Board has agreed to a very attractive tax incentive package for the Internet retailer to seal the deal.

Under the 15-year tax exemption package approved by the TIF board on Thursday, Amazon would receive a 100 percent exemption from real and personal property from 2018 to 2021, a 75 percent exemption from 2022 to 2024, a 50 percent break from 2025 to 2028 and a final 25 percent exemption from 2029 to 2032.

The deal is contingent upon Amazon staying and hitting the targeted goal of 1,000 permanent jobs by June 20, 2019. First priority for the jobs, expected to pay an average of $35,000 plus benefits, would go to Fall River and Freetown residents.

The city would still receive about $96,000 of tax revenue annually on the $5.3 million value of the land. It’s a fair deal to attract $200 million of investment from Amazon to construct and equip the facility, creating the quick creation of construction jobs for our region by the first quarter of 2015 and more than 1,000 jobs once it’s built. Those jobs are expected to pump an additional $35 million into the local economy. It also seems fair to assume that Amazon’s interest in Fall River could bring other companies as well.

After seeing the proposed Meditech facility and its expected jobs disappear after being strangled by state red tape – and other “game-changing” prospects fall through over the years – area residents are understandably skeptical when it comes to sealing the deal.

But those naysayers second-guessing the tax incentives, criticizing the wages associated with these jobs, or short-sightedly expecting more tax revenue from one of the world’s fastest growing companies are doing everyone a disservice.

The next steps involve approval of the TIF package by the Fall River City Council – expected next week. The deal has already been approved by the Freetown Board of Selectmen, but must be approved by Freetown voters at a special Town Meeting on Nov. 19. The last step is expected to be approval of a tax exemption deal with the Massachusetts Economic Assistance Coordinating Council, expected to address the issue at its Dec. 17 meeting.

Let’s do everything we can to roll out the red carpet for this successful and growing 21st century company looking to invest millions of dollars in our community and offer much-needed, decent paying jobs that are a good fit for our local workforce. We’d love to see Amazon accept this tax incentive package and deliver good news about its moves in time for Christmas so we can truly ring in a brighter 2015.