As Amazon profits soar, Ohio gives $800K grant to benefit company project

A woman walks past the Amazon Go grocery store at the Amazon corporate headquarters on June 16, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. | David Ryder/Getty Images.

The state controlling board has invested $800,000 in public grant money benefiting an Amazon distribution center project in Licking County.

That amount is nearly equal to the funding amount cut from a public school district headquartered just two miles from the Amazon site. 

Amazon is in the process of building the distribution center in Etna Twp., located east of Columbus about 9 miles from the Route 270 outerbelt. Amazon already operates a fulfillment center nearby. 

The Ohio Controlling Board met on Monday to consider more than 100 funding requests. The Capital Journal has already reported about $3.2 million approved to pay for the Ohio National Guard’s recent deployments to Cleveland and Columbus in response to protests in those cities.

The board also approved the release of $800,000 in Roadwork Development Fund money for the Amazon project. The proposal from the state’s economic development agency says the money will be used to extend a roadway that is “needed for basic access to the facility.”

“As a result of the project and State assistance provided, 85 new, full-time-equivalent jobs will be created,”  the proposal states. 

Roadwork Development Fund money would not have to be repaid, state Sen. Jay Hottinger, who represents the area, told the Newark Advocate newspaper last week. The grant program is meant for road improvement projects associated with economic development opportunities, such as road construction or building new sewer/utility lines. 

While many other Ohio companies have suffered due to the effects of the virus, Amazon has seen its value and profits soar in 2020. Non-essential retail stores were forced to temporarily close due to fears of virus spread, but online retailers like Amazon have thrived with delivery of quarantine supplies right to customers’ doorsteps. 

The demand is such that Amazon added 4,600 jobs to its Etna Twp. fulfillment center in March, the Newark Advocate reported

The coronavirus-spurred profits have led to Amazon posting a company market value of approximately $1.25 trillion.

To put the proposed Ohio grant money into perspective, imagine the distance between Los Angeles and New York City — about 2,800 miles. The $800,000 grant to benefit a company worth $1.25 trillion is the same as traveling 9 feet of that 2,800-mile journey across the country.

The Southwest Licking School District is headquartered in the nearby community of Etna. The district recently saw its public funding cut by $850,000 as part of statewide budget cuts announced in early May, cleveland.com reported

More than $5 million was cut at 10 public school districts throughout Licking County due to coronavirus-related cuts.

The Ohio Controlling Board has seven members, including the director from the state’s Office of Budget and Management along with six other lawmakers representing both parties and both legislative chambers. Monday’s vote on the $800,000 grant was unanimous.

Sen. Hottinger told the Newark Advocate he is a “big fan” of Amazon’s economic development presence in his area. 

On the Ohio House side, the project is located within the district of House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford. In 2017, Amazon donated $5,000 total to the House Republican and Senate Republican campaign committees, donor records from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office show.