By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
Jefferson County officials say they want to build on the news that Carvana, a leading e-commerce platform for buying and selling used cars, plans to invest more than $45 million to construct an Alabama distribution and fulfillment center, and create more than 300 jobs in Bessemer.
Construction of a 200,000-square-foot distribution facility off Morgan Road in Bessemer is expected to begin in April 2020 and open by December 2021.
The total project is about $47 million in capital investment.
“Economic development is not just a [business] term it also means creating quality of place,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Ammons, chair of county’s economic development committee. “We are improving the quality of life and it also shows we are open for business . . . we need to start branding that. For a long time people have preconceived notions about Birmingham and Alabama and we have to be more proactive and seeking out these opportunities and brand what Birmingham and Jefferson County and this region [is about].”
The average hourly wage for jobs is about $18 an hour.
Ammons said the county is providing incentives not to exceed $114,000 for 57 of the 300 jobs that pay $50,000 or more.
“It’s a great [project] for Bessemer,” he said. “It allows them to grow from an economic development perspective out there on Morgan Road between Hwy 150 and I-459 that can potentially help redevelop that area and bring more retail. As you bring more foot traffic you will draw more retail and potentially some folks who want to move over that way.”
Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens said the Carvana project represents a milestone in the county’s economic development efforts.
“Adding  jobs in the Bessemer area in addition to Amazon is really changing the business landscape not just for Jefferson County but for the entire region,” Stephens said. “Carvana is a forward-looking company that is looking at the business of selling cars in a different way.”
Bessemer Mayor Ken Gulley also pointed out the increasing number of businesses in his area of the county.
“We’ve enjoyed tremendous success when it comes to recruiting companies to our city, whether it be Dollar General in 2011 or most recently Amazon,” he said. “We’ve had some business expansions at places like Milo’s which show that Bessemer is a great place to do business.”
About Carvana, Gulley said, “We’re tremendously excited . . . especially because Carvana will be creating jobs that will offer great wages and benefits that will afford residents of Bessemer an opportunity to work hard and provide a great life for their families.”
Carvana vehicles are inspected, reconditioned and photographed in 360-degrees at its inspection centers, like the one planned in Bessemer, so customers get a detailed, high-definition virtual tour of every vehicle. Additionally, every vehicle comes with a seven-day return policy, so the customer can live with their vehicle for a week and ensure it fits their life.
Gov. Kay Ivey said Carvana is the kind of company the state wants to attract.
“We have been working hard to position Alabama as a prime destination for fast-growing growing e-commerce companies needing a first-class infrastructure network for their distribution operations,” Ivey said. “We are thrilled that Carvana has selected Bessemer for its newest state-of-the-art distribution hub and look forward to building a partnership with this innovative company.”