Winnipeg sent Amazon packing when the e-commerce giant wanted to build the facility, says mayoral candidate |  CBC News

Winnipeg sent Amazon packing when the e-commerce giant wanted to build the facility, says mayoral candidate | CBC News

Online retail giant Amazon wanted to build a facility in Winnipeg that employs about 2,000 people, but city administrators turned it down — and never told councilors, says mayoral candidate Kevin Klein.

An organization representing the company approached the city earlier this year to discuss building on the city’s eastern edge, adjacent to Transcona, Klein said.

As part of the proposal, he said Amazon had requested an underpass be built at Dugald Road and Ravenhurst Street. City officials denied learning about the proposal from insiders in the development community, according to Klein.

A second proposal was then made, with Amazon offering to cover the cost of the underpass if the city provided funding through tax increment financing — a mechanism that uses future tax revenue to stimulate development — over several years to cover some of the cost.

“Again, the city saw no value in the opportunity and declined,” Klein said.

He didn’t know if the facility was supposed to be a warehouse, a distribution center, or a cloud computing server center.

As a result of the city backing down, the facility is being built along CentrePort Canada Way, which is northwest of Winnipeg but in an area that is within the rural municipality of Rosser, Klein said.

“We’re losing not only, you know, the opportunity to talk about bringing Amazon to Winnipeg and … rejuvenating our economy at a time when we need it most, but we’re also losing 50 or 100 years of property taxes that would come from a facility like this and that really bothers me,” he said

The council remained in the dark

And then there’s the fact that elected city councilors haven’t heard a whisper about the proposal, said Klein, who is on the city’s standing policy committee for property, planning and development.

“The whole Amazon issue is very, very, very disappointing. What’s more disappointing and concerning is because someone who sits on a committee for these kinds of opportunities, arrangements and deals, I’m not informed that we have a serious problem in the city of Winnipeg,” he said .

Coun. Shawn Nason, who represents Transcona on the city council, says he learned about the proposal earlier this year through the landowner’s agent. He confirms that city officials never brought it up for consideration by elected officials.

“It’s disheartening that the public service hasn’t thought to involve more people in these conversations, including the local councillor,” he said.

Nason says he raised the issue with council in February, but didn’t mention Amazon as a potential buyer because the landowner didn’t want it made public. According to minutes of the Feb. 24 meeting, he lamented the “opportunity for investment that seems to be gone” because of the decision by city officials.

“The economic spin-off from something like this at Transcona would be great,” he said Friday.

Two spokespeople for the City of Winnipeg, when asked for their response to Klein’s accusation that the city abandoned the project, responded with similar email responses.

“Generally speaking, along with Winnipeg’s economic development, the utility will engage in confidential discussions with businesses and stakeholders about their ownership operations and interest in Winnipeg. The mayor and council members are not part of those confidential discussions,” said Jeremy Davis, a spokesman for Mayor Brian Bowman.

“Many considerations would be discussed in these discussions and every effort would be made to reach an agreement that benefits Winnipeg taxpayers, contributes to the city’s economic growth and meets the needs of the proponents,” said David Driedger, a spokesman for the utility.

Neither spokeswoman would confirm or deny Amazon’s proposal, saying they could not speak to specifics.

CBC News has contacted Amazon about Klein’s claims and is awaiting a response.

Klein said he is aware that some high-profile meetings are confidential, but he believes elected officials should have been brought into the loop.

“We can go in camera behind closed doors. We go in camera all the time to discuss motions, RFPs or decisions that have been made in the courts or to get legal opinions. We do that regularly,” he said. .

“But we’ve never done it for such a big occasion, and it concerns me. Something of this magnitude, just out of pure respect for every part of the city and every elected official, you should have sat them down and discussed it.”

“I think it would have been a different outcome.

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