REPUBLIC, Mo. – Almost two years after an Amazon warehouse went up in the Ozarks, prompting a $60,000 raise for the city of Republic’s top official at the height of the pandemic, KOLR 10 Investigates is examining its economic impacts.
Amazon tops the list of Republic City Administrator David Cameron’s $1.2 billion portfolio. KOLR 10 Investigates dug into the numbers that might justify the city administrator’s high pay grade covered in previous reporting.
“I’ve only been in Republic for about six years and since I’ve been here, there’s been a lot of growth,” said Erik Kiperts. “I’m welcome to it.”
Since Amazon opened in Republic in August 2021, the national retailer has shut down almost 100 facilities in 30 states as sales slowed, but the distribution center in Republic is reporting impressive data on jobs as of spring 2023.
Data from the Springfield Regional Economic Partnership ranks Amazon as the 17th largest employer in the area with 1,400 full time employees.
“I think the jobs benefitted the people living here,” said Tamara Anderson who lives in Republic. “It’s brought in a lot of jobs through Amazon and such.”
But not everyone is pleased.
“Bringing in bigger business when we’re already outgrown seems counterproductive,” said Megan Defreece, referencing Republic residents’ high sewer rates.
Other critics, including research cited by the Economic Policy Institute in 2018, argue Amazon’s net job benefit is a wash. The article suggests that Amazon takes employees from other local sectors and threatens small businesses.
Curtis White owns The Country Sunshine in Republic with his wife. They sell used furniture and decor and tell KOLR 10 Investigates that Amazon’s presence hasn’t hurt their business.
“We have gotten a lot of new customers from out of state that have started coming in,” said White. “They didn’t say they were working at Amazon, but I do feel Amazon has brought in a lot of new businesses and customers.”
Next door to his small business at City Hall, Mayor Matt Russell gives City Administrator David Cameron the credit for finalizing the deal between Amazon and the city. Although both leaders will tell you it was Amazon’s decision to come to the Ozarks.
“The employees that are employed there are buying gas, buying groceries, driving through our community,” said Cameron.
Cameron also said that’s why an Eagle Stop was built across the street from the warehouse hub.
But when it comes to the hard numbers, the city says it can’t release sales tax revenue generated from a single employer.
“We collect sales tax on anything that ships out of that building to anywhere in Missouri,” said Cameron. “A Republic city sales tax is applied.”
And while Amazon employs more people than other Republic businesses, it also receives special benefits those companies don’t get.
KOLR 10 Investigates obtained records confirming Amazon received a 50% tax break for property improvements over 10 years.
It’s something local boutiques told KOLR 10 Investigates they’re frustrated they don’t qualify for.
And unlike most cities in the area, Republic does not have a personal property tax, meaning that Amazon saves an estimated $1 million yearly in taxes by choosing to build in Republic instead of a city like Springfield.
REPUBLIC’S FAST-GROWING FUTURE
Cameron already has his eyes set on the next development.
“We’re not working on Amazon right now,” he said. “We’re working on the next one – the next project. “And what I can’t share is what we’re working on now because it’s non-disclosure agreements.”
He didn’t give our investigative team any hints, but based on what businesses qualify for the tax incentive program, it will likely be another manufacturing or distribution center.
KOLR 10 Investigates filed a records request for non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements city leaders have signed in the last 18 months only to find out there are none.