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Lake County Council

Councilman Jamal Washington, D-Merrillville, left, and Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, are pictured at a Lake County Council meeting.

CROWN POINT — Lake County Council members debated Thursday the cost of Northwest Indiana bidding on Amazon's sought-after second headquarters.

Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington, D-Merrillville, asked council members to vote next week for a resolution supporting a potential move by Amazon to the Region.

Seattle-based Amazon opened a nationwide bidding war last month, with communities offering incentives for construction of the headquarters that could bring 50,000 high-paying corporate jobs and $5 billion in investment.

The city of Gary, the NWI Forum and state government's Indiana Economic Development Corp. have formed a working group to coordinate Northwest Indiana's pitch.

Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, said he may not be able to go along with that.

Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, asked, "Is that because they are non-union?"

"That has nothing to do with my decision-making up here," said Bilski, who also is president of Teamsters Local 142 and a union member there since 1990. "My concern is for living wages and benefits.

"So if they are going to come here and ask me for a huge tax break and we give it to them, are they going to create $12-an-hour jobs? Then have we created jobs for the working poor?" Bilski asked.

Washington said, "We don't know what they are going to offer. I do know the unemployment rate is going up here. I know we have people on the verge of being homeless. I know that even for $12 an hour, that can change someone's life.

"A lot of communities across the nation are going after Amazon. I want to make sure Amazon knows Lake County, Indiana, is on board 100 percent and we want their business," Washington said.

Bilski said he has supported all economic development in the area, including a proposed warehouse east of Lowell, which he said is offering significant salaries to local residents.

"If (Amazon's proposal) is a corporate headquarters and these are white collar jobs and those pay a livable wage then absolutely I will support them," Bilski said.

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Lake County Reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.