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When Amazon Brings Both Economic Optimism and Disappointment

A Kentucky town welcomed Amazon’s arrival, but the economic outcomes over the last two decades have been lackluster.
January 5, 2020, 5am PST | Camille Fink
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Tony Webster

David Streitfeld writes about Amazon’s impact on cities and towns through a closer look at the experience of Campbellsville, Kentucky, where Fruit of the Loom operated until the late 1990s. Amazon came in soon after and leased a former warehouse, which became one of the company’s first fulfillment centers.

Local leaders and residents express conflicting feelings about Amazon. It has brought jobs to the economically depressed town, but people are still struggling. The median household income has not increased and poverty levels are high. Amazon, on the other hand, has benefited from huge tax breaks, including a payroll tax measure that has given $19 million over a decade back to the company.

Amazon also has not hired the number of workers it promised it would, and Campbellsville officials say they wish it would contribute more to support residents and local institutions. "Less visibly, Amazon shapes the local economy, including which businesses survive and which will not be coming to town at all. It supplies small-screen entertainment every night, influences how the schools and the library use technology and even determined the taxes everyone pays," says Streitfeld.

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Published on Friday, December 27, 2019 in The New York Times
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