Amazon distribution center to open near Fort Pierce

Although PSL failed to win the company’s second North America headquarters, local officials happy with alternate

ST. LUCIE COUNTY – When county commissioners granted approval for a major site plan adjustment May 7 for a warehouse project on their agenda referred to as ‘DBV1 Delivery Station,’ they had no clue they were actually approving a 60,000-square-foot facility for Amazon to get their products from Point A to Point B. Unbeknownst to most local officials, the leaders of the Seattle-based multinational technology company had become convinced of St. Lucie County’s transportation logistics even though they rejected the region as the site for their second North America headquarters, opting for Virginia instead.

County Administrator Howard Tipton said the efforts made by Port St. Lucie, county officials and the staff of the Economic Development Council produced fruit after all.

“It’s a great boost for the entire county and a great opportunity for Amazon to get to know and understand what this community has to offer,” he said. “This project came in under the radar and not through the EDC or the county’s economic team. If there is credit due, it is probably internal to their project team that selected us. PSL and the EDC made a bid for the HQ2, which could have acted as an introduction to our area.”

St. Lucie County Economic Development Manager Peter Jones admitted that he didn’t know Amazon was still interested in the area until shortly after the Commission approval to expand the size of the warehouse at 7440 Commercial Circle from 38,370 to 60,000 square feet. That’s when company officials called him after making their initial contact with the broker handling the building formerly used in light manufacturing. Amazon has signed a five-year lease on the property and is investing millions in the expansion and loading dock area, although it has yet to apply for any tax incentives.

“Our Building Department notes four permits and value of work in their system for the property totaling approximately $4.1 Million,” he said. “Amazon built their entire business model on customers being able to go online to make a purchase and have their packages shipped to them very quickly. In St. Lucie County we are right in the heart of the growth, with Martin County to the south, Okeechobee County to the west and Indian River County to the north.”

Jill Marasa, vice-president of Business Retention & Expansion for the EDC, admitted that though Amazon kept its ultimate local intentions under wraps until the last minute, they had revealed to some local officials how much they liked the transportation infrastructure of the Treasure Coast, where U.S. 1, I-95 and the Florida Turnpike converge with State Road 70 that crosses the peninsula.

“I think we made a strong impression and put ourselves on their radar,” she said. “The St. Lucie EDC and the City of Port St. Lucie representatives did have communication with Amazon after the HQ2 proposal was submitted regarding our prime location in the state for distribution and last mile delivery. Amazon has a really great team of real estate professionals who are always looking for new locations. They do it quietly and they like to make the announcement in their own time.”

Since Amazon let the cat out of the bag, the online retailer and cloud services giant has advertised the upcoming job openings at the delivery center, which will be similar to its Tampa hub that handles packages weighing less than 100 pounds but on a much smaller scale. Ms. Marasa said the company plans to hire more than 200 part-time workers and start them off at $15 an hour for up to 24 hours a week. It will subsequently hire full-time delivery drivers who will earn between $18 to $25 an hour.

“With regard to the ramp up, the company will be hiring between 280 and 300 part-time employees in the 24/7 fulfillment center operation,” she explained. “Employees will be offered flexible, 24-hour work-week schedules with a starting wage of $15 per hour.  The EDC and CareerSource Research Coast are working with Amazon, and hiring information will be released by the weekend [Aug. 3-4] and interview sessions will begin next week.  Additionally, Amazon delivery service partners will be hiring full-time and part-time positions for logistics in the coming weeks.”

While Amazon has been known to offer health and other benefits to part-time employees working more than 20 hours per week, such benefits can vary by location. Ms. Marasa said probably only the full-time drivers could be guaranteed health benefits.

“There are benefits for part-time employees to obtain additional shifts to increase their hours, as well as a benefit such as educational reimbursement,” she said.

According to the original agenda item describing the DVB1proposal last May, the project would be a proposed delivery station where pre-packaged boxes would be unloaded from tractor trailers, sorted and reloaded on delivery vans serving specific routes. Mr. Tipton believes St. Lucie County will prove to be the perfect spot for the company’s needs.

“I think the geographic location is a natural fit for the Amazon fulfillment center,” he exclaimed. “I think Amazon looked at our community and they see the potential for growth. It is an opportunity for a world-class company like Amazon to find a home in St. Lucie County.”

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