WDEL | by Mark Fowser
The Delaware Council on Development Finance approved a $4.5 million grant from the state’s Strategic Fund for Amazon Monday.
Amazon is seeking to build a “next-generation” fulfillment center on the site of the former General Motors plant on Boxwood Road in Newport, officials for the company said on February 24, 2020.
In exchange, Amazon said it will invest $250 million and bring 1,000 new jobs to the area. The company said it’s committed to hiring local workers.
Holly Sullivan of Amazon told those in attendance that the new facility would have more “robots” than previous ones, but it would still take humans to make them function properly.
The Delaware Prosperity Partnership said that Delaware was in competition with other states, making the grant vital, to securing the deal.
Several spoke out against the plans, including State Rep. John Kowalko, who said Delaware should not continue to give financial incentives to large corporations. He pointed to past projects that have failed to reap any benefits to the state like Delaware’s investment in Fisker.
“This request displays unmitigated gall,” Kowalko said.
The council’s action followed a period of public comment. Ted Pankowski of Wilmington, a retiree, said he observed many out-of-state vehicles at the site where preparation work has been going on. He is concerned that the future jobs go to Delawareans.
“If you want to give money to them – and I understand, they’re going to bring a lot of money to the state – hold their feet to the fire, and make them do it right,” Pankowski said.
Sullivan said there would be local job fairs and Amazon would make efforts to fill those jobs with qualified employees from Delaware.
The grant sets certain benchmarks for employment, and includes a ‘clawback’ provision should such benchmarks not be met.
Kurt Foreman, President and CEO of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, accompanied the Amazon representatives during the presentation. However, he said the DPP did not make a recommendation to the Council on its application.
Nonetheless, Foreman said it is a sensible step for Delaware to take.
“We want to put out best foot forward within reason, so that we’re the winner at the end of the day,” Foreman said.
“When you have competition from other states you have to make sure that you’re able to win the opportunities. We’re willing to put forward a grant that recognizes the benefits we’re going to receive from the thousand jobs they’re going to create and the money they’re spending to fit out the facility,” Delaware Economic Development Authority Chairman Damian DeStefano said.
Amazon looks to have to new operation up and running in late 2021.