Oberto is shuttering plants in Nashville, Tenn., and Albany, Ore., to concentrate on production facility in Kent; “Amazon Tax” hurts sales, study says.

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Oberto is to beef jerky what Boeing is to jets — not just a well-known local name, but the dominant U.S. player. And, OK, both are frequently seen at airports.

But unlike the jet-maker, Oberto is backing off efforts to spread its production base around the U.S.

This week the Kent-based company said it’s closing a manufacturing plant in Nashville, Tenn., that opened just two years ago. It’s also selling its factory in Albany, Ore.

Oberto, founded almost a century ago, says the closures are not due to slowing sales — it claims to be enjoying record sales and market share.

Rather, Oberto says, it plans to improve efficiency and technology at its Kent facility — “a move that will create more jobs in Washington over the coming years.”

In Nashville, 82 employees will lose their jobs by April. Oberto initially had promised to create 310 jobs, and The Nashville Business Journal reported that the company received incentives including $1.5 million in state economic-development funds to assist in the rehab of its leased facility, plus $310,000 in job-training grants.

Tennessee has clawback rules to reclaim incentives paid to companies that don’t fulfill their targets, but it’s not clear whether those will come into play.

Oberto president and CEO Tom Hernquist sought to tie the closures to Oberto’s policy of making its jerky in the U.S. (That’s been the case since 2010, when it closed a Brazilian plant and said it was bringing 300 jobs back to a modernized plant in Kent.)

“Unlike many of our competitors,” Hernquist said in a statement, “all of Oberto’s products are proudly manufactured in the U.S., requiring us to continually look for efficiency opportunities to help mitigate fluctuating costs.”

The statement added that “having all manufacturing operations under the same roof as our R&D lab will lead to increased innovation and business growth.”

A company spokesman had no additional information on the Oregon plant Oberto is selling.

— Rami Grunbaum: rgrunbaum@seattletimes.com

‘Amazon Tax’ cut into sales, study says

Researchers at Ohio State University studied the online shopping of more than 420,000 U.S. consumers and concluded that their buying went down when so-called “Amazon Tax” measures in their home states erased the advantage of untaxed e-commerce.

The Washington Post reports the researchers studied household-spending data in 19 states, examining what happened to shoppers’ spending on Amazon after their state required Amazon and other e-commerce sites to charge them sales tax.

The effect is significant, the Post reported: When the so-called Amazon Tax was put in place, shoppers spent 8.3 percent less on products on Amazon after the tax went into effect.

The researchers said shoppers’ total tabs remained essentially unchanged, but because a share of that tab was now going to taxes, the shopper was getting less product for their spending and Amazon was pulling in less revenue from that transaction.

According to federal law, a retailer does not have to charge sales tax on purchases made in a state where it does not have a presence.

And thus the argument has been that online-only retailers — which have only distribution centers instead of a massive fleet of stores dotting every state in the country — have enjoyed an advantage over their brick-and-mortar counterparts because they could effectively beat them on price by not having to charge that tax.

That Amazon lost some sales dollars where it began charging the tax would seem to support what a chorus of retail industry voices have long contended: Amazon and its e-commerce colleagues enjoyed a tail wind by not having to charge a sales tax in many places.

The research, conducted by Brian Baugh, Itzhak Ben-David and Hoonsuk Park, used transaction-level data from 422,452 U.S. households that had spent money on Amazon before the sales tax implementation.

They were provided the data by a website where consumers can track their bank accounts, credit-card activity and investments.

The team first published research on the effect of the Amazon Tax in 2014; this latest version uses a larger sample size and what researchers describe as “more precise” estimation methods, the Post reported.