BELOIT—Officials tied to the Amazon fulfillment center development in Beloit say securing the online retail giant puts the city on the map, as work continues at the site.
The $105 million project near the intersection of Gateway Boulevard and Colley Road saw construction start in October of 2019 on the 80-acre site for the 1 million square-foot distribution center. The facility is expected to be ready by the 2020 holiday season, according to Amazon.
“Clearly a household name like Amazon will create some cachet, but the real story we hope being told is how responsive the community’s development partners were on this project,” said City of Beloit Economic Development Director Andrew Janke. “We are committed to keeping up that pace with any future projects. Hopefully this project creates buzz in the industry that Beloit has a skilled and responsive economic development team in place.”
In January, the company announced plans to hire 500 full-time workers offering $15 an hour minimum wage along with health and 401K benefits. Other benefits include up to 20 weeks paid parental leave.
According to Amazon, employees at the facility will pack and ship large customer items such as sports equipment, patio furniture, fishing rods, pet food, kayaks, bicycles, and larger household goods
Amazon spokesperson Jen Crowcroft said employees will undergo training along with having access to Amazon’s “Career Choice” program in which the company will pre-pay up to 95% of tuition for courses related to in-demand fields.
“Since the program’s launch, over 25,000 employees have pursued degrees in game design and visual communications, nursing, IT programming and radiology, to name a few,” Crowcroft said.
Crowcroft said the company is confident it will find enough employees to fill jobs in a tight labor market.
“Amazon works closely with the city council and the developer as we’re looking to build new Fulfillment Centers,” Crowcroft said. “Amazon also works very closely with the local employment agencies. The close exchange begins long before the site opens so that the later hiring phase for associates and specialists is well prepared.”
Fulfillment centers are built in areas that see “continued demand” for Amazon’s retail offerings, Crowcroft said.
“There are a lot of contributing factors that go into our thought process on where to place a new fulfillment center,” Crowcroft said. “We look at the workforce and found talent in abundance in Wisconsin. We’re also responding to customer demand and want to make sure our fulfillment centers are close to customers so we can offer great Prime service and fast shipping speeds.”
Packages in Beloit could be linked with the growing Amazon Air freight facilities at the Chicago Rockford International Airport, Crowcroft said. A 200,000 square-foot expansion opened in the fall of 2019 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 of 2019. 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.
“All our fulfillment operations work in collaboration with other operations facilities. For example, a package leaving the Beloit fulfillment center could very likely fly on an aircraft out of Rockford,” Crowcroft said.
In Wisconsin, Amazon investment contributed an additional $1.6 billion into Wisconsin’s economy with its investments creating an additional 4,000 indirect jobs on top of the company direct hires.
Between 2010 and 2018, Amazon invested more than $3 billion into its fulfillment center infrastructure, according to a news release from the company.
In March of 2019, 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.
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.
To learn more about working at an Amazon fulfillment center, those interested in working at the center can visit amazondelivers.jobs.