Haley and Walmart pull one over on small biz coalition that stopped Amazon

By Chris Haire | Charleston City Paper

May 5, 2011

In a move of both sheer genius and utter depravity, Walmart announced that they are bringing 4,000 new jobs to South Carolina over the next five years after corralling small business owners in South Carolina to rally against a proposed Amazon distribution center in Lexington.

Now, what kind of jobs are these you ask? Well, Walmart plans to open dozens of new stores across the state, new stores that will be in direct competition with small business, you know, the very same folks they had convinced that Amazon was a threat.

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Seriously, man, I’ve got to give them credit. This is quite honestly the most brutal act of backstabbing I’ve ever seen.

Just think, last week, after the House rejected giving Amazon a sales tax exemption by a 71-47 vote, Frank Knapp, president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, praised the vote as a game changer that would help mom and pops.

According a Greenville News report, Knapp “said the House vote established a new principle ‘for the state’s big business recruitment efforts — do no harm to our existing small businesses.’”

Meanwhile, Rep. Bill Taylor said the Amazon deal was “a back-room promise” and “corporate extortion,” according to The State. I wonder what he calls the Walmart deal.

Um. I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing that the state’s deal with Amazon wasn’t the only backroom deal going on.

And I’ve got a feeling it wasn’t the only bit of extortion going on either, judging by what one Walmart higher up said about the Amazon exemption. According to The State:

Noah Johnson of Fort Mill, regional manager for the nation’s largest retailer, told lawmakers that giving the exemption to Amazon would disrupt what should be “a level playing field” in commerce. 

The favor could thwart Wal-Mart expansion, he warned.

“There are things in our pipeline that could more than make up for what (jobs) they would bring,” he said. “It (the tax break) could alter those plans.”

Although Gov. Nikki Haley did little to publicly push the state House one way or the other on the Amazon exemption vote, she celebrated the House vote and Amazon’s decision to move a proposed distribution center from South Carolina to Tennessee. The distribution center would have employed 1,200 people. (Two other new businesses decided to nix deals to move to South Carolina after the vote as well.)

According to the Charleston Regional Business Journal:

“You will not see an Amazon situation in the Haley administration,” she said Thursday. “We don’t want that. We don’t want to be known as the state that is desperate to grab anybody and anything at the sake of the rest of our businesses. That’s what that was about.” 

Haley said that retail jobs aren’t the same as manufacturing jobs, for which the state has also made major concessions.

“Retail by nature has a high turnover,” she said. “Retail by nature is a lower-priced job. And retail by nature is not solid and invested. It is not a Boeing. It is not a BMW. Manufacturing, high technology is very different.”

Hmm. I wonder if Haley has changed her mind about retail.

Original article: http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/HaireoftheDog/archives/2011/05/04/haley-and-walmart-pull-one-over-on-small-biz-coalition-that-stopped-amazon

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