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Is Amazon good or bad for small business?

A package from Amazon Prime moves on a conveyor belt at a UPS facility in New York. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

When it comes to small businesses, online retail giant can be a controversial topic.

Ask a few Main Street merchants what they think about the retailer, and you will likely get an earful. The point of view of many is that e-commerce and the Internet itself have significantly hurt their brick-and-mortar businesses. To them, Amazon is the driving force behind that. As I’ve written, a number of retailers — both big and small — have been retrenching or going out of business in recent years. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

So, is Amazon good or bad for small business? The answer depends on whom you ask.

Trump targets Amazon and its taxes in Twitter attack

This week is Small Business Week, and on Thursday Amazon released its first Small Business Impact Report. Its position? Amazon has been good for small businesses.

“Amazon helps small and medium-sized businesses reach hundreds of millions of customers around the world, giving the smallest of businesses the opportunity to compete next to the biggest household brands,” Jeff Wilke, chief executive of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, wrote in a blog post this week. “Together, Amazon and millions of small businesses now offer hundreds of millions of unique products and competitive prices to consumers around the world.”

The company for the first time shared information about the extent of its merchant channel, where more than 1 million U.S.-based small- and medium-size companies sell their wares domestically and to more than 130 countries. According to the report, 20,000 of those businesses had more than $1 million in sales last year.

Amazon claims its efforts have helped small businesses create more than 900,000 jobs worldwide. Amazon also said it lent more than $1 billion to SMBs in 2017 through its Amazon Lending program and continues to develop technologies, such as the Kindle and Amazon Web Services, that benefit authors, freelancers and software developers.

So … good, right? Maybe, but not to everyone.

President Trump is certainly not a fan, recently accusing Amazon in a tweet of paying “little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!”

(Amazon, which did not respond to Trump’s tweet, collects taxes on products it sells to customers in the 45 states with a sales tax, The Washington Post has reported. Items sold by third-party vendors, however, may have different arrangements.)

Bill Simon and Gerald Storch, the former chief executives of Walmart and Hudson’s Bay, respectively, also say that the retailing giant has put many other retailers out of business. Simon even suggested that Congress look into splitting up Amazon to help contain its growing influence. Quite a few smaller merchants I know would support that idea.