On his national jobs tour, Pres. Barack Obama stopped Tuesday at an Amazon fulfillment center (née warehouse order center) in Chattanooga, Tenn. The visit came a day after the online company announced it was expanding, hiring 5,000 for 17 new warehouses like the one in Chattanooga across the U.S.
Obama, who is using the tour as a chance to highlight the need for higher paying jobs for the middle class, sounded like he was impressed.
“I just finished getting a tour of a very small part of this massive facility,” Obama told the crowd. “It’s the size of 28 football fields. Last year, during the busiest day of the Christmas rush, customers around the world ordered more than 300 items from Amazon every second – many of them traveling through this building. So it’s kind of like the North Pole of the South.”
Such a glowing review puts Obama firmly alongside Gov. Rick Scott in the Amazon fan club.
On June 13, Scott announced the state had made a deal with Amazon, in which the company would create 3,000 new jobs in Florida by 2016, but consumers would be required to pay a 6 percent state sales tax.
“Amazon’s commitment to create more than 3,000 new jobs in Florida is further proof that we’ve turned our economy around,” Scott announced.
Local cities in Florida are scrambling to make sure they lure an Amazon facility, although the company won’t disclose how many they plan on opening or where (though it’s believed to be two). Ruskin, Lakeland, Winter Haven, Jacksonville, and Orlando have all expressed interest, with some offering tax breaks to seal the deal. An announcement should be pending soon.
Just how necessary are the tax breaks, considering Amazon would likely come to Florida anyway because of its aggressive plan for expansion?
In Florida, and it looks like inside the White House, too, politicians are barely asking that question, instead unanimously supporting Amazon’s business model.
This consensus comes as Amazon is becoming, for some, a symbol of today's economy, and not in a good way. Amazon was blowing up Tuesday's blogs, with a growing chorus on the left questioning if Amazon is the fix the American economy needs, calling attention to its low wage jobs and less than ideal working conditions. Salon calls the company “worse than Walmart.” Esquire and The New Republic slammed Obama for Tuesday’s stop at the company’s Chattanooga center.
“This is what he sees as an ideal venue to discuss a 'better bargain for the middle class,' the subject of Tuesday's speech?” Alec MacGillis asked. "The Amazon visit points more acutely than the administration might like to a tension inherent in our gradual comeback: what, exactly, is the line these days between a good job and a shoddy one?"
Looks like Florida is about to find out.