Business

Mammoth distribution center in Bibb – possibly Amazon – would hire up to 1,000 people

Updated plans for a huge distribution center in south Bibb appear in several ways to match “fulfillment centers” being built around the country by Amazon.com.

The center would employ 600 full-time workers and up to 1,000 during peak season, according to a document filed with Macon’s zoning office.

The Seattle-based e-commerce giant has been on a building binge across the country developing such warehouses – sometimes multiple locations in the same state – and hiring thousands of workers to fill the orders of its customers. The size, height, layout, color scheme and planned use of the Macon facility are the same or similar to many of those fulfillment centers.

As The Telegraph first reported in August, a 1-million-square-foot, $70 million distribution center is planned on Sardis Church and Skipper roads just off Interstate 75. The site is owned by the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority. It is across the interstate from the new Love’s Travel Stop in the I-75 Business Park. It is now used as a hay field.

A portion of the property and other nearby sites are on Monday’s agenda of the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission meeting to be rezoned to a wholesale and light industrial district.

Also, an application for a conditional-use permit to allow a distribution center on a 97-acre site with a building height not to exceed 50 feet is on the commission’s Oct. 9 agenda. The development is called “Project Unicorn” on the application. Companies are often referred to by project names until a deal is finalized.

Industrial Authority officials typically sign a confidentially agreement for pending projects, and its acting director, Stephen Adams, declined to comment on the project Friday. An attempt to reach someone in the public relations office at Amazon Friday was unsuccessful.

According to information filed with the Planning and Zoning office, the proposed building would be more than 1 million square feet and have 1,100 parking spaces. It is expected to open in October 2018.

It would be used “for the purposes of receiving, storing, shipping, distributing, and selling of products, materials and merchandise, which may also include alcohol products and grocery items, … for limited direct customer product pick-up from self-service kiosks, … (and) for processing customer product and merchandise returns,” according to a statement filed with the zoning office.

Several of Amazon’s fulfillment centers have Amazon Lockers, which are secure kiosks where customers can pick up their packages. Also, the company announced in June it was buying the upscale grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.4 billion.

The distribution center is expected to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, the statement said.

The facility would be accessed from Sardis Church Road and from Skipper Road, and a traffic signal is planned for that intersection. A planted buffer with a 4-foot-high earthen berm with shrubs and trees is planned adjacent to the west right-of-way of Skipper Road.

Amazon has been on building blitz

Amazon announced plans in January to hire 100,000 full-time employees in the U.S. between then and mid-2018, according to Fortune magazine. Once the hiring initiative is complete, the e-commerce giant would employ more than 280,000 people in the U.S. The company was founded in 1994 and went online as Amazon.com the next year, initially as a bookstore.

The company has more than 80 fulfillment centers worldwide, according to its website. Several centers have been announced this year all over the country.

Just this month, Amazon announced the following centers:

▪  Staten Island, New York; 855,000 square feet; 2,250 jobs; first in the state;

▪  Shelby, Michigan; 1 million square feet; 1,000 jobs; fourth center in the state;

▪  Portland, Oregon; 1 million square feet; 1,000 jobs, third in the state;

▪  Monroe, Ohio; 1 million square feet; 1,000 jobs; fourth in the state.

The company has three fulfillment centers in Georgia — in Braselton, Jefferson and East Point.

Some fulfillment centers use robots, which likely would affect the number of employees.

Atlanta is a contender in a race to win Amazon’s blessing for the company’s second headquarters, dubbed HQ2. The more than $5 billion development would bring 50,000 jobs with it.

If an Amazon.com fulfillment center is built in south Bibb County, it would join other distribution centers in the area. In September 2013, Tractor Supply Co. opened its 690,000-square-foot center in the I-75 Business Park. Also in the same park, construction began in 2016 on the 248,000-square-foot building for FedEx Ground.

Earlier this year, Tyson Foods, in the same park, announced it would expand its existing warehouse and distribution center from about 182,000 square feet to 345,000 square feet, and it would be adding about 100 jobs to the more than 300 now there.

Linda S. Morris: 478-744-4223, @MidGaBiz

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