By Jerry Underwood
Internet retail giant Amazon officially kicked off a construction project on Tuesday for a technologically advanced fulfillment center in Bessemer that will employ 1,500 workers once the sprawling facility is fully operational next year.
Amazon’s 855,000-square-foot facility is being constructed on 133 acres of property formerly owned by U.S. Steel off Powder Plant Road in Bessemer, just minutes away from Birmingham. Total investment in the project is $325 million.
Amazon officials joined Gov. Kay Ivey and leaders from Jefferson
County and the city of Bessemer at a ceremonial groundbreaking on Tuesday at the site, where construction is already under way on the facility.
Ryan Lively, operations manager for Amazon, said the company’s first Alabama fulfillment center will house the latest technology, including state-of-the-art robotics, to help the 1,500 workers pick, pack and ship items such as books, toys, health care products and electronics items to customers in the Southeast and beyond.
“We expect this building to have its Day 1 before the peak holiday season in 2019,” Lively said.
The center is expected to have a massive economic impact on the Birmingham region.
Projections show it will contribute $203 million to Jefferson County’s economic output annually, while adding $123 million to the county’s GDP, according to the study prepared by the Center for Business and Economic Research in the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse School of Business.
“This is a great day for Bessemer, a great day for Amazon, and a great day for the state of Alabama,” Ivey said at the ceremony.
Later, she added: “Not only is this fulfillment center bringing new opportunities for our people, but it’s also giving Alabamians a chance to work in a high-tech environment.”
The Seattle, Washington-based company confirmed its plans for the Alabama facility in June 2018. At the time, Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley said the Amazon project represents the largest single private investment in the city’s 131-year history.
“We’ve worked on this for quite some time, and it’s so good to see it come to fruition,” Gulley said at today’s event. “We’re excited to have Amazon in our city, and we’re excited about the possibilities it will bring.”
Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said Amazon’s project perfectly aligns with a strategic emphasis to facilitate the growth of technology-related jobs across the state.
“We’ve made recruiting technology-focused jobs a priority, and Amazon’s presence in the state will help us advance toward our goal,” said Canfield, who attended the ceremony.
During the ceremony, Amazon presented representatives of Bessemer City Schools with a $10,000 check for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington said he expects Amazon to be an active community supporter.
“From the first day when I met with the Amazon representatives, they insisted on a bus stop here because they wanted to give young people an opportunity to have a job,” Carrington said. “The second thing they told is that after a year, they would qualify for a $3,000 tuition assistance program.
“That gave me a glimpse of what kind of a community partner they would be.”
This story originally appeared on alabamanewscenter.com.