Small business owners oppose Minnesota's welfare package for Amazon

Small business owners say they don't want handouts -- and Amazon shouldn't get them either.

Small business owners say they don't want handouts -- and Amazon shouldn't get them either.

Amazon promises 50,000 high-salary jobs for the lucky city that gets to be its new home, a prospect that's making states swoon.

But as Minnesota sends off its top-secret application to meet Amazon's October 19 deadline, small business owners issued a last-minute denunciation of the nationwide frenzy to lure the online retail giant with flashy welfare packages.

Business owners with the Main Street Alliance gathered at Moon Palace Books in Longfellow on Tuesday with a request for proposal (RFP) of their own, calling for things that local entrepreneurs like and need more of. They include access to low-interest capital loans, affordable healthcare and childcare, and investments in public school and transit -- a long-game wishlist compared to Amazon's plainly stated request for welfare.

"I don't think the government should play a role in picking winners when it's an insider process that only works for the largest businesses," said Danny Schwartzman of Common Roots Cafe. "They're doing it because they can, and I don't actually begrudge Amazon. I begrudge our elected officials who are letting them do it."

Sen. John Marty (DFL-St. Paul) questioned whether landing Amazon would even be a good thing. Bringing in 50,000 highly paid people will drive up cost of living for everybody else in a tight housing market, he said. And Amazon's revolution of the retail world has already snuffed many mom and pop shops out of business.

"They make movies and TV shows, they sell books, they sell toys, they sell just about everything you can think of, and it has had a huge impact," said Mischief Toy Store owner Dan Marshall. "It's seeking nothing less than to control our entire consumer economy, and that's a danger to me. Having a diverse economy with lots of different small companies is strong."

Marshall said he'd like to coach his kids on opening their own businesses someday, but he feels they would enter a rigged playing field where large corporations are offered millions in tax subsidies they don't need.