While Amazon may not be coming to Port Covington just yet, but the global retail giant is already expanding its footprint in Baltimore.
State officials announced today that the company has agreed to open a brand new 855,000-square-foot fulfillment center at Tradepoint Atlantic, the developer-given name for Sparrows Point in Southeast Baltimore County. The facility will bring 1,500 new jobs to the Baltimore area, most them involving picking, packing and shipping goods to customers.
It’ll be the fourth Amazon fulfillment center in Maryland and the third in the Baltimore area. Two are already operating in Southeast Baltimore and a third is set to open soon in Cecil County.
The move by Amazon is “tremendous news for this local community and for Maryland as a whole,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement. “Successfully delivering this project and these 1,500 new jobs has been a top priority of our administration and another example of how Maryland is – and will continue to be – open for business.”
The writing was already on the wall for this, to be clear. The Maryland Department of Commerce already offered Amazon a $2 million conditional loan to assist with opening the center, and Baltimore County has thrown in another $200,000 as added enticement. The Maryland Transit Administration also recently confirmed plans to open a bus line connecting Bayview to Sparrows Point, enabling future employees to get there by public transit.
Amazon likely won’t have to repay the $2.2 million, as long as it meets targets for aspects like local hiring and space build-out, among others.
Sparrows Point previously housed Bethlehem Steel’s “Beast of the East,” but the steel giant shut down in 2012. Developers rebranded the area as Tradepoint Atlantic, marketing its access to major highways, deepwater port and existing freight rail infrastructure. They’ve since attracted several major tenants, including a FedEx Ground distribution center, a Harley-Davidson dealership and riding academy and Under Armour, which is planning to open a new distribution center there next year.
“This is what job creation looks like: a world-class company investing in the region, bringing 1,500 new jobs to Baltimore County,” said Baltimore County Exectutive Kevin Kamenetz in a statement. “We are pleased to welcome Amazon to the growing list of companies with a Tradepoint Atlantic address.”
Not all is rosy inside Amazon’s fulfillment centers. According to a 2015 report by Business Insider, fulfillment associates make between $10 and $14 per hour (Glassdoor’s crowdsourced numbers say the typical hourly wage is $12, for what it’s worth) and stand for 10 to 12 hours at a time during shifts. The centers are also enormous, with miles of space for employees to traverse to run to the bathroom during their short breaks.
The distribution center announcement is entirely separate from Baltimore’s pitch to bring Amazon’s second North American headquarters to Charm City. County leaders have supported the city’s pitch to house HQ2 at Port Covington. The plan is replete with billions of dollars’ worth of tax breaks.
Amazon has said it’ll announce its pick sometime next year.
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