Amazon distribution center planned for Beloit

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BELOIT - Online retail giant Amazon is coming to Beloit, and stakeholders want to see initial construction start next week on an expansive distribution center in Beloit's Gateway Business Park.

The Beloit City Council approved a development agreement Monday with Atlanta-based Seefried Industrial Properties, a build-to-suit development firm that's associated with Amazon on past projects across the country.

The Beloit project calls for a 1 million square foot distribution center on an 80-acre site along Gateway Boulevard, according to an announcement made Monday at a special executive committee meeting of the Greater Beloit Economic Development Corporation and later at the council meeting.

The site is located in the southeast quadrant by the Colley Road and Gateway Boulevard intersection, just east across the street from the Staples fulfillment center.

Construction is expected to be completed by September 2020. Preliminary grading is anticipated to start Oct. 15 at the four-parcel property that was sold to Seefried by the GBEDC prior to Monday's council meeting.

"We are thrilled about the opportunities this development will provide our community and beyond," said GBEDC Executive Director Andrew Janke.

Amazon's move to Beloit comes on the heels of major Wisconsin-based projects in Kenosha (2.6 million square foot fulfillment center, 165 acre site) in 2013 and Oak Creek (1.5 million square foot fulfillment center, 75 acre site) in 2018. The Oak Creek facility is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2020 as construction continues.

In terms of job creation, Kenosha has generated 3,000 jobs since opening in 2014 and Oak Creek is expected to create 1,500 jobs, according to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). Amazon offers full-time employees health benefits, 401K contributions and access to its Career Choice program that prepays for a portion of tuition for continuing education of high-demand career fields, according to WEDC.

In Oak Creek, Amazon committed $200 million in real and personal property, with annual gross wages of $40 million expected by the end of 2021, according to economic impact figures for the project.

"This proposed development would provide our community with increased property value, which will benefit all of Beloit," said City Manager Lori Curtis Luther.

Job and wage figures for the Beloit project have yet to be disclosed and the Beloit Daily News filed a Wisconsin Open Records Law request for project documents on Monday night.

In March, WEDC approved $7.5 million in state tax credits for Amazon, with the subsidies able to be used on future projects which could include the new Beloit location. The actual amount Amazon receives from the state hinges on the number of jobs created and capital investment undertaken through 2024, according to WEDC.

Aside from GBEDC selling the land to Seefried for $80, or $1 per acre, city officials highlighted the fact that no local financial incentives would be provided for the Beloit project. Over $32 million in incentives from the state and City of Kenosha were provided, with the City of Oak Creek agreeing to $16.9 million in city financing for the project.

Seefried must construct and install any traffic control or off-site infrastructure improvements required as a result of a pending traffic study that is in progress, according to information provided by the city. Officials cited in the Oak Creek project estimate there will be about 150 trucks traveling daily to-and-from the I-94 property in the Ryan Business Park.

With the sale of the Gateway property, the purchase agreement provides 120 to 180 days for an inspection period that allows Seefried to enter the property, and Seefried has agreed to restore the property if the project ultimately falls through. Currently, the land is leased for farming and has a crop on it. Seefried would remove the crop and cover the costs for the farm lease.

It's currently unclear if the Beloit facility will operate in coordination with the growing Amazon Air freight facilities in Rockford at the Chicago Rockford International Airport. A 200,000 square-foot expansion opened last week to accommodate Amazon Prime Air logistics network. Amazon unveiled plans for an expansion in late 2018 and announced the addition of 500 additional jobs at the airport in May. Amazon Air operates out of more than 20 airports across the U.S. Rockford's airport was ranked the nation's 19th busiest cargo airport in 2018, according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data

Amazon marks the largest project in the 18-year history of the Gateway Business Park with current businesses including Alliance Development, Chicago Fittings, G5 Brewing Co., Kettle Foods, Kerry Ingredients, The Morse Group, NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes, Specialty Tools, Staples Order Fulfillment Center and Pratt Industries.

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