Visalia mayor confirms Amazon is coming

Mayor Bob Link says 1.3 million-square foot facility brings great job opportunities for Visalia residents

VISALIA – Earlier this month The Sun-Gazette reported online shopping and shipping behemoth Amazon may be building a fulfillment center in the Visalia Industrial Park.

The story was confirmed at the Sept. 21 Visalia City Council meeting when, during the Council Matters portion of the agenda, Mayor Bob Link reported he had recently attended a small groundbreaking event for the “Amazon project out on Riggin and Plaza. It’s a 1.3 million-square foot facility and it’s a huge piece of property that they have put a fence around. It’s going to be a great item for our community. It’s going to be partly robotics and partly people, so it is going to be an opportunity for a number of jobs to become available for the city of Visalia.”

Blake Steele with Gray Construction told The Sun-Gazette contributor John Lindt the sprawling property will be the third Amazon center he has worked on and projects that it will be completed in 11 months. Some 300 construction workers will be needed during the busiest months of the Visalia project. Kentucky-based Gray Construction is an Amazon contractor who secured the city building permit.

Once open, Amazon “fulfillment centers” typically employ 1,000 or more people. A similar scenario played out in Fresno when the distribution center was built and open in less than a year. In Fresno’s case “During peak times, the fulfillment center ships over 1 million packages per day and has created over 3,500 jobs within the immediate area” says a report. Bakersfield has also seen the completion of a four-story Amazon complex near their airport, that was expected to open Sept. 6, according to the Bakersfield Californian. The new general manager told the press there, “This is one of the most advanced buildings that Amazon has,” he said, adding that the Bakersfield building—four stories, each about the size of 11 football fields.

Amazon’s Bakersfield location offers warehousing jobs paying $15 to start, the company says, and full-time employees immediately qualify for comprehensive health benefits as well as a 401(k) program with a 50% company match. Amazon also offers to pay 95% of tuition for college courses in in-demand fields, regardless of whether that education relates to their current job with Amazon.

Having a fulfillment center means Visalia will capture a portion of the $1.6 billion in in state and local taxes, including payroll taxes, property taxes, state income taxes, and gross receipts taxes Amazon reported in 2019. Last year alone, Amazon collected and remitted nearly $9 billion in sales and use taxes to states and localities throughout the U.S. The recent enactment of “marketplace laws” by 40 states allows Amazon to legally collect state and local sales and use taxes on behalf of third-party sellers who sell their goods on their platform.

And those numbers may be underselling Amazon’s effect to the local economy as online sales continue to grow exponentially. Global e-commerce sales are projected to more than double to $6.5 trillion by 2023, according to Statista. The Boston Consulting Group estimates U.S. e-commerce sales will double to $1 trillion, growing at six times the rate of all retail transactions.

Those projections came before the coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted an explosion in online shopping by people avoiding brick-and-mortar stores because of stay-home orders or fear of being infected by the virus.

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