What are Alachua County's chances of landing Amazon.com?

Higher property taxes could be one hurdle.


Published: Saturday, June 15, 2013 at 6:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, June 15, 2013 at 6:15 p.m.

Could North Central Florida be in the mix for the new warehouses Amazon.com plans to open in Florida? After all, the city of Alachua is already home to three distribution centers with close proximity to Interstate 75.

Amazon is not saying.

"We have no announcements regarding location matters," spokeswoman Mary Osaka wrote in an email to The Sun.

State economic development officials are prohibited by law from discussing active economic development projects.

The company did announce Thursday that it plans to create more than 3,000 full-time jobs and invest more than $300 million in Florida by the end of 2016.

Amazon is expected to construct two sets of two warehouses over the next 24 months, with the first pair likely finished sometime next year, The Associated Press reported.

The name of the logistics game is to deliver more products faster to as many people as possible.

Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper said it makes sense to have two locations in such an elongated state, with many deliveries coming from the north and most of the state's population in the southern half.

However, Coerper said he doesn't know how much land is left in his city for something as big as a distribution warehouse, particularly along County Road 235A, where three distribution centers have opened since 2000.

Sysco took 300 acres for its distribution center, while Walmart and Dollar General distribution centers have 250 acres each. Waco Properties also built a flexible building to lure tenants, while property to the north was rezoned for residential housing.

While she can't comment on Amazon specifically, Susan Davenport said Alachua County is a good fit for such prospects with many great sites, strong educational institutions, programs to help with hiring, a good workforce and a good overall business climate.

Davenport is the new vice president of economic development for the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce and Council for Economic Outreach.

She said the local organizations work closely with the state economic development agency Enterprise Florida on outreach to prospects.

"I think there's all kinds of opportunities that are on the table for multiple parts of the state. We'll be in that mix," Davenport said.

Dave Ferro of Ferro Commercial Realty said one challenge for Alachua County is that land close to Interstate 75 tends to be more expensive than surrounding counties since there is more demand for property near population centers. Property taxes also tend to be higher, "which is a problem for a landowner."

Lake City or Ocala might make more economic sense since real estate is cheaper, he said.

Lake City is pushing to become a logistics hub on land owned by the Plum Creek timber company that would tie available interstate and rail access with expansion plans for the Port of Jacksonville.

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