The town of Garner officially unveiled on Friday that it would be the new home of an Amazon distribution center.
The distribution center will be a four-story, 2.6-million-square-foot distribution center on Jones Sausage Road and will employ up to 1,500 people, town officials said at a press conference Friday morning.
Amazon will invest $200 million in the site, according to the town. Hillwood, a commercial real estate developer, will build the distribution center.
The project will be going in at 4851 Jones Sausage Road, the site of a former ConAgra plant that exploded in 2009. Work has already started on the site and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2019.
Officials did not reveal the average annual salary of jobs at the plant, saying only that it would vary because of the mix of blue collar and salaried positions.
Joe Stallings, economic development director for the town, said all would be “market-based.” Amazon is currently advertising warehouse fulfillment associate jobs in Durham as starting at $10.50 an hour.
The jobs will add approximately $45 million annually in new payroll in Garner, the town estimates. Stallings added the company is estimated to become the town’s biggest tax contributor.
Stallings said that while the town of Garner is currently at full employment, these jobs will bring new people to Garner and help grow the town’s tax base.
“Even though the numbers may say unemployment is low, there are 60 some people moving to Wake County every day,” he said. “The reach of a company of this size, with as many people as they will be hiring, is certainly not limited to our town, it will be region wide. I don’t foresee many issues with filling these positions.”
The town and the county began discussions with Amazon several months ago, Stallings said, noting the site made sense logistically for Amazon.
Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria said it was important for economic development to reach all corners of Wake County and that landing Amazon was a big part of doing that.
“We had a great opportunity with this property, and we have been waiting carefully and looking at a number of options to put a facility on this property that will really benefit everyone,” Calabria said in an interview. “This is going to create more than a thousand working-class jobs and it will create 1,500 jobs across the spectrum.
“There is a tendency in economic development nationally to go elephant hunting — to really only look at major investments with the highest paying jobs,” he added. “We do that too and we should continue to do that. But we also want to make sure we can help working-class folks rise up and have good job opportunities.”
The town will contribute $600,000 and the North Carolina Department of Transportation $4.5 million to make significant improvements to Jones Sausage Road to accommodate the added traffic, Stallings said.
That was the extent of the incentives given to Amazon, according to town officials.
The News & Observer reported last month that the town council had approved a special-use permit for a distribution center on Jones Sausage Road. It was referred to in town documents as “Project Axis.” Those documents showed provisions for 58 docking bays and 1,800 parking spaces.
The jobs announcement is the largest for the Wake County town in recent memory. The town’s largest employer currently is the Wake County Public School system, which has about 800 employees, according to Rick Mercier, communications manager for the town of Garner.
Amazon already has a distribution center in Durham and another in Kannapolis. The company is planning to build a distribution center near the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, according to The Charlotte Observer.
That facility, scheduled to be completed in late 2019, will employ 1,500 people. Charlotte has agreed to give Amazon $13.7 million in incentives, according to The Observer.
New use for ConAgra site
The Garner distribution facility is going on the site of the old ConAgra Slim Jim plant, a site that for years has been associated with tragedy.
On June 9, 2009, an explosion tore through the plant. Four workers were killed and dozens were injured. Two years later, ConAgra closed the plant and moved production to Ohio.
The company, however, donated the plant, the surrounding land off of Jones Sausage Road and $500,000 to the town so it could market the site to prospective tenants. The property is designated as a “brownfield” by the state and ConAgra has nearly completed remediating the property of some of the contaminants that spilled there, said Bruce Nicholson, brownfields program manager at the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.
Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said there is a stark difference between his emotions today and when the explosion happened in 2009.
He called landing the distribution center his No. 1 accomplishment as mayor.
“I was on the scene (in 2009), and I think I slept three hours in three days,” he told The News & Observer in an interview on Friday. “This is a vast turnaround. … It’s almost black and white the emotions during the explosion and the emotions today.”