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Without a word, Amazon making huge waves in South Hillsborough

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image RELP Tampa, Inc. a company with the same mailing address as a company located in Texas that has developed seven distribution centers for Amazon, has purchased 80 acres from South Shore Corporate Park, LLC for $14.6 million. Photo Mitch Traphagen

The world's largest Internet retailer is expected to create 1,000 jobs in a new fulfillment center slated for Ruskin.

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

The world’s largest Internet retailer, Amazon.com, is making huge waves in Ruskin and throughout the Tampa Bay area without saying a word.

According to Hillsborough County records, a company named RELP Tampa, LLC, a Delaware corporation with the same mailing address as USAA Real Estate Company, purchased 80 acres of mixed use, commercial property in Ruskin from South Shore Corporate Park, LLC, a company affiliated with property developer Ryan Cos. U.S., Inc. of Minneapolis late last week for $14.6 million. The property is located near I-75 in the vicinity of 30th Street NE between State Road 674 and 19th Avenue NE. The Hillsborough Community College Ruskin campus is also located in the immediate area.

The Tampa Bay Business Journal reported last month that USAA Real Estate Company has developed seven Amazon distribution centers around the country over the past two years.

Amazon has not confirmed or denied the 80-acre purchase in Ruskin is related to a proposed distribution center, which the company refers to as fulfillment centers. The company has not issued a public statement on the matter since earlier this summer after coming to an agreement with Governor Rick Scott to invest $300 million and bring at least 3,000 jobs to the state starting in 2014.

Requests for comment by The Observer News went largely unanswered with one Amazon media representative replying that a request for comments was “passed along to the right team” within the company.

The fulfillment center is expected to be in excess of one million square feet and employ 1,000 people. Also earlier this summer, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners voted to waive half of Amazon’s property tax bill for the first seven years and approved paying $1.1 million in incentives for the company to include at least 375 “high paying jobs”, offering salaries in excess of $47,500.

“The South Shore area has been a diamond in the rough for a long time,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman. “Someone has finally found the treasure here in Amazon’s decision to locate its distribution center in Ruskin. It’s going to mean economic development and more jobs for an area that so desperately needed a jump-start after the recession. It’s a perfect fit, and it couldn’t happen in a better place than South County.”

With Amazon expected to begin business operations in Florida in any of several possible sites around the state in 2014, residents will, at some as of yet undetermined point, begin paying Florida sales tax on Amazon purchases, which are currently not subject to sales tax. That issue, however, may soon be rendered moot as Congress inches ever closer to an Internet sales tax, requiring all but the smallest Internet merchants to collect state and local taxes. On the positive side for Amazon customers, however, is the possibility of same-day service on Amazon orders, a service that the company offers in eleven other cities around the country. Subscribers to Amazon Prime, a $79 annual membership plan, pay as little as $3.99 per item for same day delivery in those markets.

Amazon, founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos in a Seattle garage, went online in 1995. Today the company operates 33 fulfillment centers in the United States with at least two more expected to go online in the coming months. Amazon has nearly 40 other fulfillment centers around the world. The company employs approximately 100,000 full and part-time employees, not including seasonal employees, and reported $61.1 billion in 2012 revenues.

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