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City Council Rejects Amazon Tax Break


Fort Wayne City Council has rejected a $7.3 million tax abatement for Amazon’s newest fulfillment center on a 5-3-1 vote.

The new Amazon fulfillment center was known as “Project Mastodon” to the public as negotiations for the Fort Wayne facility went on during late 2020. It was revealed in April, and will serve as the tenth Amazon fulfillment center in Indiana.

Credit Rebecca Green / WBOI News
The building soon to house an Amazon fulfilment center is taking shape along U.S. 30 just west of Fort Wayne.

Amazon promises 1,000 new jobs to Fort Wayne and a starting wage of $15 per hour. The center will be located on U.S. 30, near Sweetwater, on property previously owned by Fort Wayne’s redevelopment commission.

On July 13, Amazon officials discussed the potential tax abatement with City Council, which the company says would apply to machinery costs.

Earlier this year, Amazon announced its 2020 revenue saw a 38% increase, presumably due to the pandemic, bringing its revenue for the year alone to $386 billion.

Residents spoke in opposition to the abatement, citing Amazon’s financial position in addition to criticizing its business practices and treatment of employees.

Ehren Gerdes is with Teamsters Local 414 -- which specializes in retail, trucking, and warehousing -- and says he doesn’t believe the abatement is a make-or-break part of the Amazon deal in the way that has been suggested, since the building is already being constructed.

He says it would not be a good investment for the community.

“What Amazon has given in return for tax dollars is depressed wages and working conditions, skyrocketing injury rates, high turnover, struggling tax coffers, and no real net job increases,” Gerdes said.

An Amazon rep was on hand to speak with Council about the facility; he noted that while the building is indeed going up as we speak, a lot of those materials have not been paid for yet. That’s what the abatement would help cover.

While each member of Council welcomed Amazon to Fort Wayne, the body was split on whether or not to approve a $7.3 million tax abatement.

Republican members Jason Arp and Paul Ensley held steadfast in their general principle to not support abatements like these by voting no; Republican Tom Didier and Democrat Geoff Paddock said they were bound by the local and state definition for abatements and voted in favor.

2nd District Republican Russ Jehl was one of the no votes.

“Follow the rules, apply before you build, and it almost always will be approved," Jehl said. "And just about the only times in recent years I can think of for not approving an abatement with the qualifications is normally on some kind of shortcoming on that application, namely here the intentionality of applying after building.”

Ultimately, Amazon’s rep noted the abatement’s failure would likely not impact the decision to hire 1,000 workers, just slow down the process.

Zach joined 89.1 WBOI as a reporter and local host for All Things Considered. He currently hosts Morning Edition.