This image from Amazon shows the e-commerce retailer's fulfillment center in Patterson in Stanislaus County.
Written by Gabriel Dillard
Amazon.com today announced plans to open a fulfillment center in Fresno that will employ up to 2,500 people.
The 855,000 square-foot facility will be located in a burgeoning business zone at Orange and Central avenues — about 1,000 acres that is being primed for e-commerce and data center jobs, said Mayor Lee Brand in an interview.
Brand said there has been a lot of behind-the-scenes work getting the $100 million project permitted, and he expects a groundbreaking within 30 days, and about one year to build the center — putting an opening in the second half of 2018.
It will be the San Joaquin Valley’s fifth Amazon fulfillment center — three are operating in Tracy and Patterson, and a fourth is under construction in Sacramento.
“We are very excited to expand our network into Fresno and throughout the San Joaquin Valley as a region,” said Akash Chauhan, Amazon’s vice president of North American operations, in a statement. “There are several factors we consider when deciding on where to place a new fulfillment center. Most importantly, we look to see where we can improve Prime benefits with faster shipping speeds for customers and where there is a dedicated workforce that can raise the bar of our operational excellence. We know we’ll find talent in abundance in Fresno to join the Amazon team.”
Brand visited an Amazon fulfillment center in Seattle — the electronic retailer’s corporate home — earlier this year on a visit to sell Fresno as an ideal site. He was impressed with the state-of-the-art equipment and automation features. The Fresno fulfillment center will specialize in handling smaller-sized items such as books, electronic devices and children’s toys, according to Amazon.
Landing Amazon is also a tall feather in Fresno’s cap given the amount of competition for such facilities in an area that is within three hours of 30 million people. With brick-and-mortar stores closing, e-commerce is quickly rising as the modern retail model, and municipalities are following suit.
Visalia passed a package of incentives to lure a Nordstrom distribution center, and was in the running with Fresno before the retailer announced last year it was delaying its plans.
Madera County is working on building a 200-acre industry park near Highway 99 and Avenue 7, with plans to create one of the state’s first enchanced infrastructure-financing districts (EIFD), which allow counties and cities to use a portion of the increased property taxes of developed properties to reimburse themselves or private developers for infrastructure improvements.
And Chowchilla city officials announced this week the development of a specific plan to draw e-fullment centers and food processors to more than 2,000 acres of industrial land near Highways 99 and 152.
Brand said landing Amazon should send a message to other site selectors that Fresno is in business. As a councilmember he also authored the Economic Expansion Act, which provides incentives to developers of major projects that create jobs. Back in December the city council approved a package of $30 million over the next 30 years for Golden State FC LLC, the Amazon subsidiary heading the project.
Those funds would not come from the general fund, but the increased property taxes of the developed property, known as tax increment.
Brand’s proposed fiscal 2017-18 budget includes an increased economic development budget to draw even more activity to the “triangle” near Highways 41 and 99 where beauty supply retailer Ulta plans to open an e-commerce center with 500-1,000 jobs next year as well.
The message: Fresno is open for e-commerce development.
“We are spreading the word as much as possible,” Brand said.
Brand believes Amazon likely represents the single largest job creating project in Fresno.
According to Amazon, full-time employees “receive competitive hourly wages and a comprehensive benefits package, including healthcare, 401(k) and company stock awards starting on day one. Amazon also offers regular full-time employees maternity and parental leave benefits and access to innovative programs like Career Choice, where it will pre-pay up to 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, more than 9,000 employees are pursuing degrees in game design and visual communications, nursing, IT programming and radiology, to name a few.”