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Politics and Government

Talks to lure Amazon take political turn during Onondaga County meeting

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon at the state of the county address, talks about lessons learned from Amazon, and the potential of the White Pine Commerce Park.

Next week, the Onondaga County Legislature will vote on requesting Amazon to consider a location in the town of Clay for its new headquarters, after the company pulled out of its project in Long Island City. But a meeting took a political turn as legislators debated the merits of such a request.

Republican legislative Majority Leader Brian May said the resolution asks Amazon for consideration of the White Pine Commerce Park.

“Pie in the sky, I know, but it’s a great message to send out to the world," May said. "Here in Onondaga County, we have water, we have a workforce, we have all kinds of resources, we’ve got shovel-ready ground. We’re ready for business and we’re open for business.”

But he said a meeting of the Ways & Means Committee got spirited at moments. Democratic Minority Leader Linda Ervin said she asked a simple question.

“Why would we say Amazon come here, the doors are open, if we don’t know anything about why they turned it down downstate,” Ervin asked. “Do we know enough about the deal that Amazon had downstate to open our doors and say come on in, we have space for you here, welcome you with open arms?”

Ervin said supporters of the resolution made it seem like she was being an obstructionist. She said there was obviously something wrong with the deal, for people downstate to reject it.

"There had to be something more than what was on the surface," Ervin said. "And before I say yes to saying come on Amazon, doors are open, I want to know something more about it. I want to know if they're really going to be bringing jobs, if they're really going to be doing things that's going to help this community, or they're just going to come here and take the tax breaks and walk away, like some other companies have done."

Plus, she added, County Executive Ryan McMahon has talked about marketing White Pine to other businesses. McMahon called it some of the most attractive infrastructure in the country and said he will pitch it to the world’s leading site selectors at a conference in Salt Lake City, later this month.

Republicans on the committee passed the resolution, but Democrats abstained. The full legislature will vote on the measure Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has reportedly reached out to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to try to lure Amazon back to New York. According to the New York Times, Cuomo has spoken with Bezos by phone and has offered to "navigate the company through the byzantine governmental process." Amazon has given no indication it will reconsider its decision, according to the Times.