Spokane Journal of Business

The Journal's View: No need to hold applause for massive Amazon win anymore

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Amazon.com Inc. has announced what we already knew—or at a minimum, strongly suspected. Yes, it’s building a 2.6 million-square-foot warehouse on the West Plains that’s expected to employ more than 1,500 people. Construction crews are moving massive amounts of dirt south of the Spokane International Airport, and the $181 million order-fulfillment center tentatively is scheduled to be completed by Aug. 31, 2019.

Now, after three months of public speculation—and work behind the scenes that went for months before that—it’s time to recognize those who were involved in making this arguably unprecedented development a reality. 

Amazon publicly credited a number of government bodies and organizations for their roles in making the project possible: Greater Spokane Incorporated, the West Plains/Airport Public Development Authority, Spokane County, and Spokane International Airport. The city of Spokane, which is involved in the PDA, and property owners who worked with Amazon and the other groups involved deserve some credit as well, as do the Washington state Department of Transportation and the Spokane Transit Authority for reprioritizing transportation projects to make travel more efficient to and from the new fulfillment center.

This type of development is the reason the city, county, and airport launched the PDA, which in simplest terms is a tax revenue sharing agreement that will pay for infrastructure improvements to incentivize development. The end goal is to create jobs. Certainly, this is a big, early win for that group.

Not to bring the party down, but it’s also not an entirely surprising win. Amazon already operates nearly 80 such fulfillment centers in the U.S., and the Spokane-Spokane Valley is a top 100 metropolitan statistical area that serves a population that goes well beyond the MSA boundaries. Taking nothing away from the efforts to land Amazon, it makes sense that the company would want a fulfillment center here.

That said, Amazon could have decided to expand into North Idaho. Or the Tri-Cities. Maybe even Moses Lake. And it didn’t. It’s building a massive facility and creating jobs here, and economic development advocates deserve the business community’s applause for making that happen.

Ideally, what GSI, the PDA, and others are doing is building a body of work on which they can build momentum. When trying to attract manufacturers, distributors, and others, business recruiters can point to the success not just in landing Amazon, but in multiple agencies working together to help the company accomplish its mission here.

Remember, the business community has a similar story to tell about working with Caterpillar Inc. when the international heavy-equipment manufacturer built its big—not Amazon big, but massive by any other standard—facility on the West Plains. One more such success, and it’s a trend.

We have compelling stories that, if told right, can lead to more development and more jobs.

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