COLUMBIA — Amazon.com is abandoning plans to build a distribution center in South Carolina because the state won't give the company a tax break, taking the promise of 1,250 full-time jobs and $100 million in investment elsewhere, a company official said Thursday.
Amazon vice president Paul Misener said he doesn't expect negotiations with state officials to resume after state representatives, on a 71-47 vote a night earlier, nixed a sales tax break sought by the Seattle-based company.
The online retailer had planned to open a warehouse operation on land provided by the Lexington County, which is near Columbia. Whether construction continues on the site just off Interstate 77 is no longer Amazon's concern, Misener said.
He said $52 million worth of contracts were canceled after the vote and all job postings were pulled.
"The Amazon facility will not be an Amazon facility," he said at the Statehouse after thanking legislators who supported the deal. "The 1,200 jobs and nearly $100 million in capital investment that were coming to the state, aren't."
The company sought a five-year exemption from collecting sales taxes from South Carolina shoppers under a deal brokered with the Commerce Department under former Gov. Mark Sanford.
Gov. Nikki Haley, also a Republican, opposed the break, as did tea party activists and a coalition of retailers that Wal-Mart helped organize, and which bought TV ads railing against it. They argued a tax break was unfair to local retailers that must collect state sales taxes.
Democratic and Republican legislative leaders had argued unsuccessfully that a break would cost the state nothing since South Carolina online shoppers don't pay sales taxes now when they buy from Amazon. They say they fear the rejection will give South Carolina the reputation of not keeping its word and jeopardize future job recruitment efforts in a state still struggling with high unemployment.
Retailer opponents, who wore "Stand with Main Street" T-shirts at the Statehouse this week, praised the vote as a victory for small businesses.
State senators applauded the Amazon executive Thursday as a way to show their appreciation.
"We hope we can deliver for you one day," said Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-West Columbia.
Misener declined to discuss where the distribution center might go.
"It will be somewhere. This is not a question of whether we'll be building these facilities around the country," he said. "It's just a matter of where."