GAINES TOWNSHIP –– Amazon.com Inc. has made its first official announcement regarding the ecommerce giant’s long-planned distribution center in southeastern Kent County.
In a statement released Tuesday, the Seattle-based Amazon said the 850,000-square-foot facility in Gaines Charter Township will employ more than 1,000 people. The company described the facility as a “robotics site” to “pick, pack and ship” a wide variety of items it sells.
“Michigan has been a great place to do business for Amazon and we look forward to adding a new fulfillment center to better serve our customers in the region,” Mark Stewart, Amazon’s Vice President of North American operations, said in a statement. “Because of our ability to have more inventory on-hand and increased speed of fulfillment, we are able to better meet customer demand and create more than 1,000 new jobs with competitive pay and great benefits starting on day one of employment. We are proud of our ability to create jobs, spur innovation and provide excellent Prime service to members.”
The Gaines Township facility will be Amazon’s fourth distribution center in Michigan.
The township has yet to approve a tax abatement for the company. It’s unclear if that will occur.
“Today’s announcement marks the fourth project Amazon has invested in Michigan in just under two years. Their ongoing recognition of the state for fulfillment center locations underscores a major endorsement of the state’s logistics, distribution assets and strategic location in proximity to the Midwest region,” Jeff Mason, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., said in a statement. “We appreciate Amazon’s continued commitment to growing their footprint and creating jobs here in Michigan and look forward to working with them on future investments in the state.”
The project was also supported by The Right Place Inc., a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit economic development organization.
“Any time you can add new jobs in a community is a good thing,” Tim Mroz, vice president of marketing and communications for The Right Place, told MiBiz. “West Michigan needs jobs at all pay ranges. What Amazon was impressed with here was the level of collaboration for workforce development that they don’t see in other states.”
Mroz said Amazon will have access to a range of programs from organizations such as West Michigan Works!, although no workforce development initiatives have been put forth specifically for the company.
Workers at the site will likely come from Kent, Ionia and Barry counties, Mroz added.
The Right Place and other local stakeholders had previously flirted with a separate Amazon project last year when they compiled a bid for company’s second headquarters. However, the region failed to make the shortlist of finalists for HQ2.
Mroz said that Amazon executives confirmed that the distribution center project was in the planning stages long before any the retailer analyzed bids for the headquarters site.
There’s also a question of how all employees will reach the relatively remote site along 68th Street SE between East Paris and Patterson Avenues, on land currently owned by Steelcase Inc.
Amazon has reported that its median wage for employees is about $28,000 per year, according to the Seattle Times.
While a large parking lot is planned at the site, its likely that many workers will rely on The Rapid to get to work and the Grand Rapids-area transit service does not currently offer service that far south.
Mroz said that The Right Place is not currently engaged in any discussions with The Rapid, but noted in a previous interview that a lack of bus service to many areas experiencing growth remains a challenge.
“One of the challenges we have in West Michigan is that a lot of our greenfield development sites –– which tend to be the most interesting or appealing for business expansions –– tend to be in suburban or rural areas,” Mroz said previously. “Suburban and rural areas aren’t traditionally serviced by a mass public transit system, so it creates unique challenges when you have large business expansions and how you get available workforce to those areas.”