African Americans expectations of Amazon coming to Nashville

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Nashville dubbed locally as the ‘It City’ has landed the most sizable deal in the history of Tennessee with the location of Amazon’s East Coast hub of Operations called Amazon’s Operations Center of Excellence. This soon to come addition to Nashville continues to catapult Tennessee into being a major hub for consideration by top businesses and corporations. While we, as a whole, are proud of the amenities the city offers, that puts the city and state in a position to be in top competition for major corporations throughout the country—considering startups, expansions or relocations. We are also aware of the pros and cons that come along with the decisions involved in bringing such monumental businesses to our city.

Amazon brings 5,000 high paying jobs of 150,000 and up. It is guaranteed to boost the economic status of many employees inhabiting Nashville or surrounding counties. But this acquisition is not without contention when looking at the traffic congestion in the city, lack of affordable housing and the high tax write-offs given the company to move to Nashville. Many would argue why we are bringing more businesses to an already congested area with daily traffic problems that many claim are destined to get worst in upcoming years. We are told that bringing businesses here intensifies our efforts to remedy these problems, especially as relates to traffic congestion.

There are no shortages of Nashvillians vying for affordable housing which in actuality will not be a problem for those who are fortunate enough to land one of the high paying jobs offered by Amazon. In fact, one can’t help but ponder if the majority of these high-end jobs are not meant specifically for the millennials occupying the overly expensive downtown area known as the Gulch. There should be transparency in making sure a certain percentage of African Americans are hired.

Amazon is a wealthy company and many would argue didn’t need a hefty incentive package consisting of $102 million in cash grants and tax breaks to choose Nashville. But as it stands, offering hefty incentive packages are standard practices for cities competing to lure big companies and corporations. Nonetheless, some citizens feel these packages are entitlements or corporate welfare for wealthy corporations eliminating them from paying their fair share of taxes. This will fall on the shoulders of local taxpayers. But Amazon’s presence in Nashville will bring estimated incremental tax revenue predicted to be $1 billion in 10 years. Some would surmise that no one should apologize for bringing businesses to a city—businesses which promise to generate high paying jobs and promote growth.

One of the biggest concerns to be considered by Amazon is the distribution of jobs offered. Are there provisions to regulate a fair percentage of the jobs to go to African Americans or people of color? Too often the ‘It City’ proves to be profitable and advantageous to everyone but the African American community. Equity and economic consideration doesn’t seem to be an option for the majority of African Americans in this city. For example, if Amazon is to cater to those in the downtown area, demographics show there are only a small amount of African Americans living downtown or who can afford to live downtown.

There must be some community oversight or involvement in making sure that employment at Amazon reflects the people in our city. I would assume that the bulk of employees would come from our city, which harbors a multitude of colleges, universities or institutions of higher learning. There should be no shortage of available applicants from local or surrounding universities with the skills necessary to fulfill these jobs. Tennessee State University, located in Nashville, should serve as a major pool for many qualified African Americans.

Let’s hope that the city considers training programs if necessary to fulfill job skills needed and to limit recruiting from other cities. There should be no excuses claiming this city lacks the qualified Africans Americans needed to fulfill a noted percentage of the jobs.

Local council people and our mayor should be prevalent in assuring that a percentage of these jobs go to African Americans. It is the right thing to do and will help us believe that an effort is being made to include all Nashvillians as benefactors in the prosperity attributed to this city.