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Official Grand Opening of Retail Giant Amazon Makes a Large Footprint in Jacksonville

The company is called “Amazon” but those touring the online retailer’s massive distribution center on Pecan Park Road would call the experience “Amazing.” The world’s second largest retailer behind Walmart, officially opened last September but hurricane IRMA postponed the Grand Opening festivities for their “JAX 2” facility. Dignitaries on April 6, 2018 were invited to tour the facility including Mayor Lenny Curry, Congressman John Rutherford, State Senator’s Aaron Bean and Audrey Gibson, State House Representative’s Jason Fischer, Tracie Davis, Kimberly Daniels, Cord Byrd and Clay Yarborough, along with City Council Members Danny Becton, Aaron Bowman, Jim Love, Matt Schellenberg, Joyce Morgan, Reggie Gaffney and Doyle Carter were all on hand. Amazon’s JAX 2 General Manager Bernard Schmidt kicked off the festivities welcoming everyone and introducing his staff and describing the facility for which everyone was about to see first-hand.

District 11 Council Member Danny Becton was among those who were fascinated by the human and robotic ballet that sorted, moved and packed products to be shipped throughout the region. Human employees, label and sort boxes that are placed in tall robotic bookshelves on wheels. The robots then take the boxes to a sorting and shipping area where each package is automatically loaded onto the correct truck. The robots can “see” its human counterparts and stop by themselves if a person were to accidently to walk into its path.

The Amazon facility was truly amazing in seeing the grand scale for which it operates. Having been in retail and around distribution and warehousing for over 35 years, this experience of seeing their technology on display was impressive. I know for one, that I will never look at the Amazon package showing up to my door, the same way again,” commented Becton.

The new Amazon facility makes the IKEA store look small. The Amazon warehouse has a base footprint of 800,000 square feet. When the upper levels are included the building is 2.4 million square feet in size. The company invested $200 million in the plant with an incentive package of an estimated $18.4 million in city and state funds. Much of those state and local dollars will be repaid through a state-funded Recaptured Value Grant that rebates a part of the taxes raised because of increased residential and commercial property values expected to spawn around the Amazon complex.

The deal had been in the works for seven years with officials from the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, city and state working to lure Amazon to Jacksonville. At its peak, the Pecan Park Road plant will employ 1,500 with most salaries being in the $12 to $15 range with benefits. However, 500 employees will make more than $50,000 per year. When the Cecil Commerce Center plant opens, it will add another 1,000 people. If the other two facilities come to fruition, Amazon’s Jacksonville-based payroll could reach more than 5,000 workers.

The influx of mid-range wage jobs is being filled by mostly those working entry-level, minimum wage positions. This means Amazon is creating upward mobility for those already employed as well as providing a starting place for those entering the job market for the first time.

 The Pecan Park facility is officially the first of two and maybe as many as four Amazon distribution centers that will be built in Jacksonville. The second confirmed location is at the Cecil Commerce Center off 103rd Street. When opened in 2019, the 1 million square foot facility will handle larger bulk items like furniture and outdoor equipment. A third, as of yet officially announced, location would be much smaller measuring 63,000 square feet and be located in the Alta Lakes Commerce Center in Oceanway in North Jacksonville.