General Manager Ankush Pole stands above the Fresno Amazon fulfillment center, which is celebrating a grand opening this week. Photos by Frank Lopez
Written by David Castellon
Something made of paper is the traditional gift on a first anniversary, but what do you give for a 13-month anniversary?
Whatever it is, there’s a good chance you can order it from the Amazon Fulfillment Center, which is celebrating its 13-month anniversary this afternoon.
Technically, the event is a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the 855,000-square-foot fulfillment center that opened in June 2018.
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, who frequently notes the substantial benefits of having Amazon here as a key factor in getting to his goal of bringing 10,000 new jobs to the city during his term, will be among the dignitaries expected to attend.
The number of year-round and seasonal employees at the fulfillment center currently is more than 2,500, about 1,000 more than anticipated during the planning process for the massive facility at 3575 S. Orange Ave.
Plans are to convert a few hundred seasonal workers — most brought on during the Christmas period and other times when online orders get heavy — to full-time status, said Ankush Pole, general manager for the site.
The building also has 2,500-5,000 robots that get under large containers called “pods,” containing the cell phones, books, jewelry, video games and the thousands of other goods customers have ordered.
The low-to-the-ground robots are choreographed by computers to bring goods to human staff who collect each customer’s items, load them into bins and send those bins via conveyor belts to an area where the goods are carefully packed into various-sized boxes for delivery.
Amazon also converted another, much smaller building in south Fresno to a local distribution center where packages not sent out via public or private delivery services — the U.S. Postal Service, FedEX, UPS, etc. — are delivered by local people using their own cars.
Pole and other Amazon officials interviewed said they didn’t know how many people work at the Amazon Flex center or the number of contracted drivers doing local deliveries.
As for the fulfillment Center, Pole said the company generally waits a year to hold such grand-opening events at its centers.
“When we launch a building of this size, adding so many people, a lot of people know something’s happening. It’s just that we take the time to make sure everything is stabilized, everything is good for outside visitors to come in and show them the building,” Pole said.
The Fresno facility is one of 110 Amazon fulfillment centers in the U.S. While the one here is among the largest, 20 are a 1 million to 1.2 million square feet in size, such as the one in Tracy.
The Fresno center opened with just 75 people, and in a few months ramped up to the original hiring goal of about 1,500, and now has more than 2,500, which is pretty much Amazon’s hiring capacity there.
If there is a need to increase Amazon’s local distribution services, Pole said that may lead to building a second facility, though he wouldn’t speculate if or when that could happen.