Photos by Theo Tate
An Amazon.com fulfillment center is being constructed at Lakeview Commerce Center on June 3. Another center is under way at Gateway Commerce Center.
EDWARDSVILLE — A year ago, Joliet became the first Illinois city to open an Amazon.com fulfillment center.
On Thursday, the Seattle-based company announced Edwardsville will be the state’s second city to open a fulfillment center.
Make that two fulfillment centers.
The centers will be at Gateway Commerce Center and Lakeview Commerce Center. The projects will create more than 1,000 full-time jobs between the facilities when they open.
“Illinois has been a great place to do business for Amazon and we look forward to adding two additional fulfillment centers and creating another 1,000 full-time jobs with benefits on day one in the state,” Akash Chauhan, Amazon’s vice president of North American operations, said in a statement. “The elected officials throughout the city and state have been very supportive of Amazon and we thank them for helping make this possible. We’re excited to soon call Edwardsville home and become an active member of this vibrant community.”
Edwardsville Mayor Hal Patton was excited about the news when he heard about it on Thursday morning.
“It means a bunch, not only to our community, but to our entire region,” Patton said. “A thousand jobs will come in a very needed time with the Granite City mill being temporary idled. A lot of people are looking for work and having this company with great name recognition and great growth potential and coming to our area and providing these types of jobs, it’s fantastic news.”
Patton said the fulfillment centers will help bring recognition to Edwardsville, where the population has doubled over the last 30 years. The city was selected as the one of the Top 10 Best Towns For Families by Family Circle magazine.
“It’s an immediate benefit,” Patton said. “We do abate the property taxes for seven years, but we already had the infrastructure built up. We have a good water system and sewer system and road system down there, so it’s not difficult for us to abate that property tax for seven years. The income tax that they will be paying to the state of Illinois through the jobs that they will be creating, the sales tax and the people that will be visiting the community and that will work and eat and shop in the area. There are numerous benefits. It’s going to be a nice shot in the arm for Edwardsville.”
Both fulfillment centers will span more than 700,000 square feet each, where employees will pick, pack and ship items for customers. One of the buildings will specialize in handling larger items like big-screen televisions, sports equipment or kayaks and the other building will handle smaller items such as books, toys and electronics.
“We knew those two buildings were being built by the developers and the developers do all of their own searching for tenants,” Patton said. “We heard that Amazon was looking at Edwardsville with the two centers here, St. Louis and possibly Memphis. We were keeping our fingers crossed that it would land in one of the buildings down there. Two months ago, we heard that not only were they interested in one of the buildings there, but they were looking at both of the 750,000 spec buildings. At that time, they were talking about 700 jobs, which we thought was a great number. Then, I signed a non-disclosure statement and we worked very quietly and privately with them to not let any of the news slip out. For the last three weeks, we were wondering, ‘When it’s going to happen and when’s the announcement?’”
Amazon.com will celebrate its 22nd anniversary next month. The company originally was called Cadabra before changing its name to Amazon. A year ago, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the country based on market capitalization.
“To look up any business news, they are 38 to 40 percent of the online retail market,” Patton said. “Their goal by 2020 is have 50 percent of that. So that’s an aggressive growth goal and most analysts believe that they’re going to reach that. So it’s impressive. We have nice businesses down there with World Wide Technology, Hershey and Dial and Proctor and Gamble. Having the tech-savvy company like this come in, it’s going to be very good for our future.”
Joliet opened its first fulfillment center in the fall of 2015 and it employs 1,500 full-time employees. Last week, Amazon announced plans to open a second fulfillment center in the Chicago suburb, creating a total of 2,000 full-time jobs.
“The Joliet site is going to feed a lot of the Chicagoland purchases and anywhere up in northern Illinois,” Patton said. “Now being selected from the St. Louis region, I think this region could go far as Memphis, Kansas City and Indianapolis. So we’re fortunate to be in a location that has three interstate systems running by. That’s why you see the county talking about logistics and the benefit of having the barge and rail and this interstate system being situated four hours from major cities like Kansas City, Memphis, Indianapolis and Chicago. We’re at a great location and we’re fortunate to have this professional commerce park that is ideally situated and managed well.”
Patton said he hopes both fulfillment centers will be open by September or October.
“They’re finished,” Patton said. “It’s just the remodel that’s going on in the inside to house Amazon. The warehouses themselves are close to $30 million dollar warehouses and the inside remodels can be anywhere from $4 to $5 million.”
Madison County Board Chairman Alan J. Dunstan said he’s thrilled the Amazon fulfillment centers are coming to Edwardsville.
“We are excited that Amazon is coming to Madison County,” he said. “We look forward to them becoming part of our community and we welcome the job opportunities for our residents.”
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