Wanting More, Amazon Has Already Received $1.2B In Tax Breaks

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Amazon, looking to locate a second headquarters with 50,000 jobs, has asked cities to outbid each other with taxpayer-funded incentives to attract the company.

But it turns out Amazon’s been asking, and getting, that for years.

“Amazon has qualified for $1.24 billion in incentives,” says Jennifer Boehm, managing editor of the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Boehm says a national study by her parent company, American Business Journals, found that Amazon has received more than $1.2 billion from all levels of government as it quadrupled its sorting, fulfillment and distribution centers.

“These incentives have included everything from tax abatements to tax credits to an urban renewal grant, and other types of grants as well,” Boehm told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.

It’s a strategy that has worked.

“Their strategy has been very effective getting these types of incentives,” she said. “What they’ve been doing is — they’ve been going into these communities really quickly, often times secretly.”

But there’s not much secret about Amazon’s HQ2, or second headquarters, contest, as much of the bidding seems public.

Carnegie Mellon University Tepper business professor Sunder Kekre says it’s more than money.

“Obviously, from a business standpoint, they will be looking for incentives,” says Kekre. “But it’s not the financial incentives that will drive Amazon to Pittsburgh. I think the biggest incentive they have here is the quality of people that they will be able to interact with because of our university system.”

And while some worry that tax breaks for Amazon will never get repaid with good-paying jobs, Kekre is not concerned.

“Given their performance of how they’ve grown over the years, I think they have a good shot of giving back to the taxpayers whatever we give upfront to them in terms of concessions,” he said.

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