The S.C. House’s rejection of a five-year sales tax break for Amazon.com — which cost the Midlands 1,249 jobs — represents a sea change in the way the state of South Carolina approaches job recruitment and could hamper those efforts in the future, some recruiters and experts say.
But others say the vote marked a welcome break from the state’s traditional job recruitment posture of favoring big businesses over small ones and giving unfair advantages to some over others.
“This is a pivotal moment in the state’s economic development history,” USC economist Doug Woodward said. “We’ll have to take some time to study the lessons surrounding this issue, both politically and economically.
“In this case, both sides might be right,” he added. “Yes, we need new jobs, and we have missed an opportunity. But this was a case in which the incentives were going to drive a wedge between different types of retailers. It’s an anomaly, a peculiar case.”
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Amazon pulled up stakes Wednesday after the online retailer lost a legislative showdown in the S.C. House, 71-47. It halted plans to equip and staff a million-square-foot building under construction at Interstate 77 and 12th Street near Cayce, canceled $52 million in procurement contracts and removed S.C. job postings from its website, company officials said. The partly finished center probably will be completed and then “put into mothballs,” they said.
Most Midlands lawmakers supported the exemption. But pressure from small merchants, other national retailers and Tea Party activists won over the large majority of lawmakers.
Gov. Nikki Haley told The State that what companies like about South Carolina are its anti-union stance, low taxes and “level playing field.”
“We are not so desperate that we are going to hurt our businesses at home,” she said. “Companies appreciate that. I would love Amazon in this state, but let’s do it with a level playing field.”
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