Many of the proponents of development are supporters due to the real or perceived economic boosts brought by development. However, not all development brings economic benefit. In fact, with this project in particular the economic benefits to the community, if any, are hard to identify. We have addressed each of the typical areas of economic benefit below and how this project will likely fail to benefit the average resident.
"The warehouse tax remittance incentive allows businesses to exempt 100 percent of the eligible construction costs of qualified warehouses (including cold storage warehouses), distribution centers, and grain elevators from the state’s portion of the retail sales or use tax (6.5 percent). The incentive also allows for a 50 percent exemption from the state’s portion of the retail sales or use tax on purchases and installation of material-handling and racking equipment. (RCW 82.08.820)."
Thurston County offers exemptions on sales and use tax for manufacturing machinery and equipment used for warehouse/distribution facilities.
With no sales tax on construction, no use tax on purchases, no tax on inventory, and low assessed value on warehousing for property tax revenue where is the tax revenue necessary for the hundreds of millions of dollars in road improvements, expansions, and repairs necessary to support 4000+ vehicles per day?
Another often touted benefit of development is the improvements to infrastructure that often come with large projects like this. First, at this point NorthPoint Development has not made any official offers to assist in the massive infrastructure improvements that will be needed for their operations. Therefore we can only assume this will fall on taxpayers. Second, should they assist with the cost or pay for some of the infrastructure outright they will likely hand it over to the county for maintenance. Semi trucks, at the volumes estimated by NorthPoint, cause massive damage to the roads. In other communities with these facilities, the most highly used roads are being repaved as often as three times per year, funded by the taxpayers. Finally, the area which will receive the infrastructure improvements does not need them for any purpose other than to support the NorthPoint project; there is no public good to the massive expenditure required to support the facility's predicted traffic volumes.
It's hard to argue that jobs are not of benefit, at least to those that receive them. Yet even in this area this project falls short. Warehouse facilities like this one average 2 jobs per acre of buildings (less with coming automation). In this case, that yields a paltry 276 onsite jobs compared to the massive 6,000,000 sq, ft of building and 400+ acres of impervious surface planned. Of those 276 jobs, the vast majority are likely to be temporary workers, who, according to a NorthPoint representative, will typically be paid 20% more than the hourly rate of a restaurant worker (not including tips). These temporary jobs have no benefits, receive no raises, and are often terminated after 90 days to avoid certain tax and benefit requirements. These jobs cost the community in health care, unemployment benefits, transportation, food stamps, and housing assistance, forcing the cycle of poverty through regular interruptions to their pay schedule. Read more here.
Another often cited economic benefit to these inland ports is the hundreds of additional warehouses that soon follow once these facilities are up and running. These additional warehouses receive the same tax exemptions, employ an equally low number of people (mostly temporary workers), and further increase heavy truck traffic which damage the infrastructure. To fully understand the impact of an inland port on a community after 10 years of operation this article is a must read: Elwood, Illinois (Pop. 2,200), Has Become a Vital Hub of America’s Consumer Economy. And It’s Hell.
Negative Economic Impacts
Several nearby businesses and Millersylvania State Park will very likely see a negative impact on visitation and therefore revenue. Businesses that will likely be negatively affected by semi truck volumes include Rutledge Corn Maze, Sandstone Distillery, Valley Nut & Bolt, Airport Glass, Slater Stables, Deep Lake Resort, Maytown Tavern, and others. The local economic impact of Millersylvania alone is estimated at over $11,000,000 annually. However the massive increase in traffic volumes on I-5 headed north from the site to warehouses in Hawks Prairie (Lacey), Dupont, and other points will create significant congestions and slowdowns, delaying or impeding other commerce in the county that utilizes I-5. The negative economic impact of congestion to the county is hard to quantify, but it will likely be significant.