Ama­zon cen­ter will bring 1,500 jobs to Gar­ner

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY ZACHERY EANES AND SCOTT BOLEJACK [email protected]­ald­sun.com sbole­[email protected]­sob­server.com

The town of Gar­ner of­fi­cially un­veiled on Fri­day that it would be the new home of an Ama­zon dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter.

The dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter will be a four-story, 2.6mil­lion-square-foot dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter on Jones Sausage Road and will em­ploy up to 1,500 peo­ple, town of­fi­cials said at a press con­fer­ence Fri­day morn­ing.

Ama­zon will in­vest $200 mil­lion in the site, ac­cord­ing to the town. Hill­wood, a com­mer­cial real es­tate de­vel­oper, will build the dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter.

The project will be go­ing in at 4851 Jones Sausage Road, the site of a for­mer ConA­gra plant that ex­ploded in 2009. Work has al­ready started on the site and is ex­pected to be com­pleted in the fall of 2019.

Of­fi­cials did not re­veal the av­er­age an­nual salary of jobs at the plant, say­ing only that it would vary be­cause of the mix of blue col­lar and salaried posi- tions.

Joe Stallings, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor for the town, said all would be “mar­ket-based.” Ama­zon is cur­rently ad­ver­tis­ing ware­house ful­fill­ment as­so­ciate jobs in Durham as start­ing at $10.50 an hour.

The jobs will add ap­prox­i­mately $45 mil­lion an­nu­ally in new pay­roll in Gar­ner, the town es­ti­mates. Stallings added the com­pany is es­ti­mated to be­come the town’s big­gest tax con­trib­u­tor.

Gar­ner is about three hours north­east of Char­lotte.

Stallings said that while the town of Gar­ner is cur­rently at full em­ploy­ment, these jobs will bring new peo­ple to Gar­ner and help grow the town’s tax base.

“Even though the num­bers may say un­em­ploy­ment is low, there are 60 some peo­ple mov­ing to Wake County ev­ery day,” he said. “The reach of a com­pany of this size, with as many peo­ple as they will be hir­ing, is cer­tainly not lim­ited to our town, it will be re­gion wide. I don’t fore­see many is­sues with fill­ing these po­si­tions.”

The town and the county be­gan dis­cus­sions with Ama­zon sev­eral months ago, Stallings said, not­ing the site made sense lo­gis­ti­cally for Ama­zon.

Wake County Com­mis­sioner Matt Cal­abria said it was im­por­tant for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment to reach all cor­ners of Wake County and that land­ing Ama­zon was a big part of do­ing that.

“We had a great op­por­tu­nity with this prop­erty, and we have been wait­ing care­fully and look­ing at a num­ber of op­tions to put a fa­cil­ity on this prop­erty that will re­ally ben­e­fit ev­ery­one,” Cal­abria said in an in­ter­view. “This is go­ing to cre­ate more than a thou­sand work­ing-class jobs and it will cre­ate 1,500 jobs across the spec­trum.

“There is a ten­dency in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment na­tion­ally to go ele­phant hunt­ing — to re­ally only look at ma­jor in­vest­ments with the high­est pay­ing jobs,” he added. “We do that too and we should con­tinue to do that. But we also want to make sure we can help work­ing-class folks rise up and have good job op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

The town will con­trib­ute $600,000 and the North Carolina De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion $4.5 mil­lion to make sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments to Jones Sausage Road to ac­com­mo­date the added traf­fic, Stallings said.

That was the ex­tent of the in­cen­tives given to Ama­zon, ac­cord­ing to town of­fi­cials.

The News & Ob­server re­ported last month that the town coun­cil had ap­proved a spe­cial-use per­mit for a dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter on Jones Sausage Road. It was re­ferred to in town doc­u­ments as “Project Axis.” Those doc­u­ments showed pro­vi­sions for 58 dock­ing bays and 1,800 park­ing spa­ces.

The jobs an­nounce­ment is the largest for the Wake County town in re­cent mem­ory. The town’s largest em­ployer cur­rently is the Wake County Pub­lic School sys­tem, which has about 800 em­ploy­ees, ac­cord­ing to Rick Mercier, com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager for the town of Gar­ner.

Ama­zon al­ready has a dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter in Durham and an­other in Kan­napo­lis. The com­pany is plan­ning to build a dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter near the Char­lotte Douglas In­ter­na­tional Air­port, ac­cord­ing to The Char­lotte Ob­server.

That fa­cil­ity, sched­uled to be com­pleted in late 2019, will em­ploy 1,500 peo­ple. Char­lotte has agreed to give Ama­zon $13.7 mil­lion in in­cen­tives, ac­cord­ing to The Ob­server.

NEWLIFE FOR CONA­GRA SITE

The Gar­ner dis­tri­bu­tion fa­cil­ity is go­ing on the site of the old ConA­gra Slim Jim plant, a site that for years has been as­so­ci­ated with tragedy.

On June 9, 2009, an ex­plo­sion tore through the plant. Four work­ers were killed and dozens were in­jured. Two years later, ConA­gra closed the plant and moved pro­duc­tion to Ohio.

The com­pany, how­ever, do­nated the plant, the sur­round­ing land off of Jones Sausage Road and $500,000 to the town so it could mar­ket the site to prospec­tive ten­ants. The prop­erty is des­ig­nated as a “brown­field” by the state and ConA­gra has nearly com­pleted re­me­di­at­ing the prop­erty of some of the con­tam­i­nants that spilled there, said Bruce Ni­chol­son, brown­fields pro­gram man­ager at the N.C. De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity.

Gar­ner Mayor Ron­nie Wil­liams said there is a stark dif­fer­ence be­tween his emo­tions to­day and when the ex­plo­sion hap­pened in 2009.

He called land­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter his No. 1 ac­com­plish­ment as mayor.

“I was on the scene (in 2009), and I think I slept three hours in three days,” he told The News & Ob­server in an in­ter­view on Fri­day. “This is a vast turn­around. … It’s al­most black and white the emo­tions dur­ing the ex­plo­sion and the emo­tions to­day.”

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