Amazon warehouse coming to GM site
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 12:16

Amazon announced last week that it will build a new one million-square-foot warehouse at the site of the former General Motors plant.
photo by Ben Boehl

Online retail giant’s new fulfillment center expected to bring over 1,000 new jobs

by Ben Boehl

New jobs will be coming to Southeast Baltimore. Amazon.com announced last week that it will open a one-million-square-foot fulfillment center on the 184-acre former General Motors (GM)  property near Holabird Avenue and Broening Highway.
    In a press release, Amazon said it is expect to create 1,000 full-time jobs, which it claims will pay on average 30 percent more than traditional retail jobs.
    Amazon also said it has stock grants that full-time employees receive and innovative programs like Career Choice, where the company will pre-pay up to 95 percent of tuition for courses related to in-demand fields, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at Amazon.
  “We are proud to be bringing more than 1,000 full-time jobs with great wages and benefits to Baltimore,” said Mike Roth, Amazon’s vice president of North America operations.    
    “These are full-time jobs that offer company stock awards, 401(k) and programs like Career Choice where Amazon will pre-pay the cost of tuition for employees to go back to school. We are grateful to the state and local elected officials who supported Amazon coming to Maryland and we look forward to being a part of the community.”
    Amazon employees will pick, pack and ship books, electronics and consumer goods at the warehouse.    
    The General Motors plant closed in 2005, eliminating 1,000 jobs.
    Duke Realty purchased the former GM site in 2006.
    Brian Strohl, Director Design and Construction at Duke Realty, is working with Amazon to design the warehouse at the site.
    He gave more details about Amazon at a South East Neighborhood Development (SEND) meeting on Monday.
    One of the questions that SEND members had was about the number of employees that Amazon will hire. Strohl said that there will be two shifts with approximately 800 to 1,000 workers each.
    “They don’t know the exact number. They won’t know [how many employees they will hire]until they start.”
    According to Strohl, a shovel has broken ground and the facility is expected to be open by the end of September 2014.
    “It is a very secure facility. There is probably less security at a government building,” Strohl said, referring to the fact that employees turn over personal items as they enter the building and that there are no inside vendors selling food.
    [Security issues have been the subject of controversy for Amazon. The company has been sued by employees who say it takes as much as half an hour to pass through security checks at the end of a shift, and that they are not paid for that time.]
    Celestine “Babe” Gra-bowski, president of the Graceland Park Improvement Association and a member of SEND, wondered how Amazon was going to have next-day delivery and if a carrier such as FedEX of UPS could set up a substation at one of the other vacant buildings that Duke owns.
    “There has to be some truck operation if they are guaranteeing next-day delivery,” Grabowski said.
    Strohl responded that he is unaware of any talks that Duke has had with a delivery carrier.
    According to Strohl, a sign will be placed along Broening Highway within the next week with information on how to apply for a job with Amazon.
    Strohl added that he has been to other Amazon sites and stated the warehouses are clean and air conditioned and heated.
    “They go out of their way to provide a good working environment,” Strohl noted.
    The news was well-received by local officials. Gov. Martin O’Malley said Amazon will fit nicely into the area with the Port of Baltimore.
    “I’m thrilled that Amazon is joining our community of businesses that surround the Port of Baltimore. Companies are taking note of the investments we’re making in transportation infrastructure and workforce development, and they’re creating jobs here,” O’Malley said.
    “We know Amazon’s decision was based on a solid business plan, and we look forward to working with them as they continue to expand here in Maryland.”
    Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said that Baltimore County was not directly involved with the Amazon talks but credits Baltimore City for bringing Amazon to the area.
    “I learned about it a while back, but we are delighted because some county residents could become employed at the site,” Kamenetz said.
    Del. John Olszewski, Jr., who is a sponsor of the (Employment Advancement Right Now) EARN bill providing grant money for training in areas where there is demand for skilled workers, is pleased to see jobs returning to the area.
    “[I’m] happy to be a supporter of this effort,” Olszewski said.