Bessemer announces planned Amazon Fulfillment Center, creation of 1,500 jobs

Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times

Bessemer Mayor Ken Gulley announces that the city is preparing to open the state’s first Amazon fulfillment center with 1,500 jobs. (Ariel Worthy/The Birmingham Times)

The city of Bessemer announced on Friday plans to open the state’s first Amazon fulfillment center with 1,500 jobs.

The announcement was made at Bessemer City Hall with elected officials from Bessemer and Jefferson County as well as business officials, city workers and residents, present.

Amazon will build the 855,000-square-foot facility on 133 acres of property being purchased from U.S. Steel off Powder Plant Road in Bessemer, just minutes away from Birmingham. Investment in the project is expected to be $325 million.

Bessemer Mayor Ken Gulley said employees will start out earning $14.65 an hour as well as benefits and pick, pack and ship items to customers such as books, household items and toys. They will work alongside advanced robotics technology.

The mayor said the Amazon project represents the largest single private investment in the city’s 131-year history. As an added bonus, the company has pledged to create a tuition-assistance program for its workforce.

“Amazon is bringing jobs and opportunity to our residents and students. I am particularly proud of the educational incentives Amazon will offer our young people: Get your high school diploma, work one year and receive $3,000 the next four years toward furthering your education,” he said.

Job Creation

This is the first Amazon fulfillment center in the state of Alabama, which “speaks volumes for Bessemer … that makes us unique in this state. That is huge for us,” Gulley said.

Gulley said the city is “anticipating at least 1,500 jobs but we’re looking upward of about 3,000 jobs after this facility is up and running,” he said. The site is set to be completed in July 2019.

Having the Internet retail giant attracts other businesses to the city, he said.

“I’m looking at how we can develop the area around it, whether it be restaurants, hotels or whatever else,” he said. “People are interested in this area now.”

Jefferson County Commissioner Sandra Little Brown said students in Bessemer and Birmingham will benefit from Amazon’s new center. (Ariel Worthy/The Birmingham Times).

Jefferson County Commissioner Sandra Little Brown said Lawson State Community College has a robotics program for students which can lead to employment with Amazon.

“We want to keep our kids home,” she said. “The salary starts at $14.65 but it goes up, and up, and up.”

Brown said Bessemer can’t fill 3,000 jobs alone, so people from the surrounding area are expected to apply for the jobs as well.

“There is enough soup in this bowl for everybody,” she said. “We want Wenonah, and Parker (Birmingham city schools) students at these jobs too.”

Rick Davis, senior vice president for economic development for the Birmingham Business Alliance, he also expects additional projects to come to Bessemer.

“This project alone, through its construction phase and its operational phase, is going to have an economic impact of over $700 million,” Davis said. “Companies don’t put that kind of money into a community unless they already know what’s here. What’s here is the workforce and work ethic.”

Gulley said the city will hold a job fair at its old city hall site, as well as the Bessemer Civic Center, the Bessemer Recreation Center.

Significant Impact

An analysis projects that the Amazon fulfillment center will generate a significant economic impact on Jefferson County and Alabama.

The center will contribute $203 million to the 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 College of Business.

The facility will contribute $232 million to Alabama’s economic output each year and add $137 million to the state’s GDP, the study says.

The Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website contributed to this post