Nashville Approves Amazon Incentives, But Officials Hope To See Company’s ‘Community-Minded’ Side | Nashville Public Radio

Nashville Approves Amazon Incentives, But Officials Hope To See Company’s ‘Community-Minded’ Side

May 10, 2019

Now it’s official: Nashville has given final approval to a $17.5 million grant for Amazon. The city will pay the incentives as the company fills 5,000 jobs.

For the most part, city officials have given a glowing welcome to the company for promising high-paying jobs, a boost to tax revenues and added momentum for the tech industry.

But as the Industrial Development Board finalized the city incentive deal on Thursday, some members put their concerns on the record about Amazon’s size and reputation.

“The challenge is … to allow Nashville to continue to grow, but certainly to preserve that quality of life that attracted everybody,” said board member Nigel Hodge.

He pressed Holly Sullivan, Amazon’s head of worldwide economic development, about the company’s pending impact on traffic.

“As our public transportation stands right now, do you feel that it is adequate?” Hodge asked.

“That’s a tricky question,” Sullivan replied. “Today, I think it’s OK.”

She went on to suggest Amazon could be involved in conversations about improving public transportation, exploring the role of autonomous vehicles and influencing city planning. She also noted that the company has an incentive program for employees who commute in ways other than driving alone.

“We need to be more thoughtful on how Nashville continues to grow,” Sullivan said. “Those are conversations that we will be a part of and would like to be invited to the table to help solve those.”

The board’s chairwoman, Ginger Hausser, noted that Amazon caused growing pains in its early days in Seattle, and that concerns in New York City led officials there to reject plans for a second headquarters.

“I hope … it is really a community-minded Amazon that we’re going to see here in Nashville,” Hausser said. “This really provides a unique opportunity for Amazon as a company to really reset what that image is.”

On that front, Amazon has been funding local nonprofits and universities. And the company spoke out against several state legislative bills dubbed the “slate of hate” by the LGBT community.
Board member Cristina Allen said she’d like Amazon to keep affordable housing and transportation on its radar.

“Those are issues that come as a whole for the city, and Amazon we look forward to your corporate social responsibility on that as well,” she said.

Thursday’s vote finalized Metro’s incentive for Amazon. Meanwhile, a much larger package from the state government has been advancing. A $65-million grant from the state is included in the upcoming budget, but a contract could take a few more months to complete.

Amazon has made some hires for its Nashville operations center, and Sullivan said the company would like to have 400 people on board by the end of the year.