A few minutes after midnight, Amazon.com Inc. confirmed what had been expected since July: It will open a second fulfillment center in Jacksonville that will add more than 1,000 jobs to the regional economy.
Employees at the 1 million-square-foot center in Cecil Commerce Center in West Jacksonville will pick, pack and ship large items like household decor, sporting equipment and gardening tools.
The 86-acre site already is being cleared at 13333 103rd St. in West Jacksonville.
Legislation shows the two centers will create 2,700 jobs and receive $26.7 million in taxpayer incentives.
“We think it’s a home run,” said district City Council member Doyle Carter this morning.
He said the Cecil center will draw workers from the Westside as well as Baker, Clay and Bradford counties. That means they will be buying gas and products in Duval, generating tax revenue for Jacksonville.
He also expects the two Amazon centers to “open a lot more doors” to introduce major companies to the area’s industrial parks.
Carter said companies are noticing Jacksonville and like its lifestyle.
“They found out how good Jacksonville is and how we have a great workforce,” he said.
Multiple centers mean larger investment
The prospect of a second center emerged as the Seattle-based e-commerce retailer announced July 27 it would open its first in Northwest Jacksonville at 12900 Pecan Park Road.
JAXUSA Partnership President Jerry Mallot said then that Amazon.com might not stop at just one fulfillment center in Jacksonville.
Signs strengthened in October when council approved $8.3 million in incentives for Project Velo and were confirmed in November when a building-permit application identified Amazon as the tenant at a project under development at Cecil.
Mayor Lenny Curry said in the Amazon news release this morning the development at Cecil is a “tremendous asset for our city.”
“I am looking forward to Amazon’s expanding presence in our city and contributions to its continued economic development and growth,” he said.
The Northwest Jacksonville facility is under construction and expected to open this fall. The 1,500 workers will pick, pack and ship small consumer items such as books, electronics and consumer goods.
Council approved $18.4 million in incentives for the facility.
Amazon.com has opened multiple locations in several U.S. cities.
Aaron Bowman, senior vice president of JAXUSA Partnership and a council member, said in the release that landing a second facility in such a short amount of time “further solidifies the JAX region as a place of unlimited opportunity, fueled by possibilities.”
Together, the two centers represent a promised investment of $315 million — $200 million for Northwest Jacksonville and $115 million for Cecil.
During the past three years, the company has announced multiple facilities in Florida, including four fulfillment centers and two sortation centers, as well as Prime Now hubs in Miami, Tampa and Orlando.
It employs more than 4,000 workers in the state, the release said.
Mike Grissom, executive vice president of Enterprise Florida Inc., said the company has been one of the state’s best job creators since it announced its first project three years ago.
“This most recent project in Jacksonville is another great win for Florida and we thank Amazon for their continued investment and job creation,” Grissom said.
To qualify for the incentives, 500 of the 1,500 Northwest Jacksonville workers will be paid an average of $50,000 a year, while 325 of the 1,200 Cecil employees will make an average of $50,675.
Both centers will hire more workers for seasonal work during the holidays.
The bulk of the jobs are expected to pay $12 to $15 an hour, or about $25,000 to $31,000 a year.
As the Cecil Commerce Center land is being cleared, the city is reviewing a permit application for the building.
Although Amazon hasn’t said when the Cecil facility will open, Mallot said he expects it would be at the same time as the Northwest Jacksonville center.
That would be in time for the 2017 holiday season.
He said the first center uses more complex robotics for the smaller products while the second will be a more traditional center for the larger items and simpler to build.
Fort Worth-based Hillwood Investment Properties, the master developer at Cecil, will buy the land from the city for $8,819 an acre, or more than $758,000.
Hillwood is developing AllianceFlorida at Cecil Commerce Center.
The Conlan Co. is the contractor for both Jacksonville Amazon centers.
The multilevel Northwest Jacksonville center has a base footprint of 855,000 square feet and a total size of about 2.4 million square feet.
Those centers could draw employees from Northwest Jacksonville as well as north into Nassau County as well as west into Baker, Carter said.
Amazon also intends to operate a 63,000-square-foot delivery station in the Alta Lakes Commerce Center, nine miles east of the Pecan Park Road facility. No job count has been announced for that operation.
Attracting a workforce
Amazon says full-time employees receive competitive hourly wages and a comprehensive benefits package, including health care, 401(k) and company stock awards starting on Day One.
The company said it also offers employees programs like Career Choice, where it will prepay 95 percent of tuition for courses related to in-demand fields, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at Amazon.
Since the program’s launch four years ago, more than 7,000 employees in 10 countries have pursued degrees in fields such as game design and visual communications, nursing, information technology programming and radiology.
The company also recently announced a commitment to hire 25,000 military veterans and spouses in the U.S. during the next five years and train 10,000 in cloud computing.
To learn more about working at Amazon, visit amazondelivers.jobs.
The company did not specify the number of jobs that will be created at Cecil, although the legislation says 1,200.
That would tie for the second-largest jobs announcement in the city’s history, according to JAXUSA Partnership figures.
JAXUSA, the economic development division of JAX Chamber, said in July the 1,500 jobs at the first Amazon center represented the single largest job announcement in the city’s history.
It said the second largest number was 1,200 jobs announced by Citi in 1998 and Bank of America in 1997.
Even at “more than 1,000” jobs, the Cecil figure ties for better than third. Deutsche Bank announced 1,000 jobs in 2008 and Prudential did in 1997.
Candace Moody, vice president of CareerSource Northeast Florida, said this morning the group is putting together a strategy to make sure prospective employees understand what the jobs entail.
“We hope to get a chance to meet with the company to talk about a strategy of recruiting, especially young people,” she said.
Moody said a company that needs a lot of employees with a high school education is important, especially in Northwest and West Jacksonville.
“The jobs are going into just the right place, right in the sector that needs the economic boost,” she said.
Moody expects the company will attract employees from outside Duval County, but questions how far they would want to commute to make $12 an hour as gas prices rise.
Still, she said, “I do think we will find there are a lot of people who are very interested in these jobs.”