Dutchess County could be home to an Amazon warehouse. Officials say a former IBM site is a frontrunner as the retail giant considers locations across the country.
The world’s largest online retailer is considering a $135 million investment in the former IBM West Campus site in East Fishkill. Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro says the logistics center would be a job creator and appropriate fit for the location.
“This is very exciting and a real shot in the arm should this materialize,” Molinaro says. “So we’re supportive; the Industrial Development Agency is supportive; the Town of East Fishkill is supportive; and this investment with Amazon could bring as many as 500 new jobs to Dutchess County at a time where, frankly, we, we’re competing well but we could all use some positive news and new investment, so we’re very excited.”
The projection is for 500 jobs over three years. Amazon would construct a more than 629,000 square-foot warehouse facility on Route 52 in the Town of East Fishkill. Molinaro says if Amazon occupies the site in Dutchess, it will help the county recover from the economic impact of COVID-19.
“This former facility, IBM, no matter who the investor is, it has been long a challenge to attract investors,” says Molinaro. “And we’re now riding a wave of interest from businesses who clearly want to do business just outside of New York City or within proximity to New York City, and this facility, this building, in Dutchess County is an attractive option and when it comes to putting people to work, we’re going to work hard to make sure that there are those job opportunities.”
Town of Poughkeepsie resident and activist Jim Beretta does not oppose Amazon’s potentially locating at the IBM site, but wants the company to pay its fair share of taxes.
“Amazon is a $1.7 trillion corporation,” Beretta says. “And that’s great that they want to come to Dutchess County; that’s great that they want to use that site that’s been empty. It is near Interstate 84, but pay your taxes.”
Ron Hicks is Assistant Dutchess County Executive.
“I completely understand the concern. There’s no doubt that Amazon is a wildly successful company. However, what we’re talking about here is competing with surrounding states. This site makes sense logistically, but so does a site in Pennsylvania and so does a site in New Jersey. And so we are in competition with other states. And everyone knows that it is very expensive to do business in New York,” says Hicks. “So the question is, is this something that we want? Do we believe that this will create good jobs, and I think we’ve seen that. We’ve seen the wage scales they’re proposing, the benefits packages that they’re proposing? And we know that this is going to transform what has been a vacant and a blighted site for more than two decades, has been a cancer on the valuation of the surrounding properties and is, quite frankly, an embarrassment as you enter the Town of East Fishkill.”
The site has had a lot of false starts and now, says Hicks, is a chance to change the direction and provide revenue to the town and Wappingers Central School District.
“This is a game changer for us on this site,” Hicks says. “And, if anybody thinks differently, over the last 20 years, I ask them why hasn’t this site been developed? Why has this site sat vacant and blighted? Why has this site cost the municipalities money?”
In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson says the business is constantly exploring new locations and weighs a variety of factors when deciding where to develop future sites to best serve customers. She says Amazon has a policy of not commenting on its future roadmap. Amazon already has plans to open a 1-million-square-foot warehouse in Montgomery, in Orange County. Beretta says Amazon should not be entitled to any Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT, agreement, or other financial breaks.
“Basically, I say no PILOT, and I typically say that for all the projects that go before the IDA because I think that everybody else has to pay their taxes,” says Beretta.
The Dutchess County Industrial Development Agency voted unanimously in favor of the preliminary project. It is contemplating providing financial assistance by granting a real property tax exemption and providing for a PILOT as well as exemption from all state and local sales and use taxes and from all real estate transfer taxes and mortgage recording taxes.
Beretta also takes issue with the times public hearings are scheduled, for most projects.
“The hearings are always scheduled early-to-mid morning during the week. They’ll be like, say, for example, 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10 a.m., on a Monday or a Tuesday or a Thursday,” Beretta says. “Who, from the general public, can afford to take time to hunt these things down and go to a public hearing, prepare for it, read the applications and prepare for it and go to a public hearing during the morning during the week. Most people can’t.”
He says generally it is he and his wife who turn out for the hearings, and they have done so over the past year. The IDA is holding a virtual public hearing on the proposed Amazon project December 4 at 9:30 a.m.