BOHANON & CUROTT: What Amazon could’ve expected from Indiana

Economic Analysis by Cecil Bohanon & Nick CurottDear Amazon: Now that you have decided to quash your headquarters expansion plans in New York City, Indiana invites you to reconsider the Hoosier state.

We are quite aware that you are one of the largest, most innovative companies in the world. Your offer of billions in investment and 50,000 jobs at an average of $100,000 makes us lick our chops. If you locate in Indiana, our governments will ensure your property is secure. We will provide you with roads, sewage, fire departments, signage and other components of public infrastructure. Our K-12 school system and universities are world-class. Our courts are just in adjudicating disputes that inevitably arise in business. Our regulations serve important public interests and our taxes are low and equitable.

We will not, however, treat you in a fundamentally different way than other enterprises. Indiana is committed to a fair and efficient rule of law that applies equally to all our businesses and citizens. So no tax breaks, no cash grants. We welcome your input in helping us develop our worker training programs. Please note, however, that our workforce development plans are not designed to provide you, or any other employer, with a captive workforce. It is rather to enhance the productivity and earning power of our citizens. We welcome you but won’t worship you nor give you everything you want.

That said, please note: We won’t treat you as a cash cow. We will not set up oversight boards designed to shake you down. Or view you as a tax source to support progressive utopian schemes for saving the world. We will not lecture you on your “corporate responsibility” to solve all our problems and lift our citizens from poverty. We have every reason to believe you will make contributions to good causes in Indiana—and we thank you for that. However, we know your major contribution is providing customers with outstanding services and shareholders with good returns.

We’re offering you everything that an efficient, just and responsible government can offer. But somehow, we fear our offer isn’t enticing enough. You expect special handouts and corporate welfare. That’s nonsense. All Americans would be better off with a constitutional rule that prevented states from playing against one another for corporate welfare. But we hope you are still interested. It could be a revolutionary partnership.•

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Bohanon and Curott are professors of economics at Ball State University. Send comments to [email protected]

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