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Amazon effect: How can my company get tax breaks?

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In the off-season, Frank May's 'Pool Place' becomes more of a 'Christmas Place', stocking pre-lit artificial trees and the attendant decorations.

 But he thought Chattanooga, Hamilton County and the state of Tennessee were playing Santa Claus when he first caught word of the tax breaks offered to lure e-tailer 

"Part of me was aroused in protest," he says.

"Why are the big guys being put as champions of our community when the little guys are providing the bulk of the jobs?"

Amazon has pledged to create more than 1200 full-time jobs, most of them 'pickers and packers' in the 1 million square foot 'Fulfillment Center' distribution warehouse planned for Hamilton County's Enterprise South Industrial Park.

"Those jobs likely will bring me business," he says. "Could we make the next step if there were some assistance? Yeah!"

The Pool Place once had a 40,000 square feet warehouse in Dalton, GA. The recession prompted May to sell it and move wares to a 7,000 square feet facility in a business park in Hamilton County. He'd like to do more than regain storage capacity.

"Manufacturing (spas and pools) could be the next logical step," he says. "I'd like to do it in Chattanooga. It's home, and always will be."

The Pool Place is an extension of a family business that began more than half a century ago. May represents the third generation. He employs more than 50 people at five retail/distribution sites across the Tennessee Valley.

"The key thing is, it has to be a new investment, and it has to be fairly significant (to qualify for tax breaks)," says J. Ed. Marston, Vice President for Marketing and Communication of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

'Significant' is defined as 25-50 new jobs, the creation of which would impose a tax burden large enough to discourage the expansion if abatements weren't offered.

"We look at very finite periods," Marston says. "Generally, two or three years to ramp up to that full employment. We're looking for wages that match or exceed Chattanooga's average pay for the type jobs in question."

"The problem is what many small businesses need most is capital investment," Marston says. "The recession has tightened credit and lending."

May believes 'The Pool Place' would have no trouble meeting or beating the wage qualifications.

"What I'd like is a transparent application process for the small businessman," he says. "Accessible for those who don't have a fleet of attorneys at their disposal."


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