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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Report highlights Amazon’s economic impact to the region

Amazon employees package items as a tour passes through Amazon’s Airway Heights fulfillment center on June 7. In a report released Wednesday, Amazon indicated it has invested more than $550 million in the Spokane area.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

Amazon’s arrival and expansion in the Spokane region generated more than $550 million in the local economy, according to a report released Wednesday.

In its 2021 U.S. Economic Impact Report, Amazon indicated it also created 4,000 direct jobs in the region, in addition to 3,300 indirect jobs related to its fulfillment center that opened in June 2020 on the West Plains.

The report, produced by economics consulting firm Keystone Strategies for Amazon, analyzed Amazon’s U.S. investments last year.

After Amazon opens its 1.3-million-square-foot Spokane Valley fulfillment center this fall, it expects to add an additional 1,200 more jobs in the area, making the company the fourth-largest employer in Spokane County.

Amazon likely has created both direct and indirect effects to the local economy, said Grant Forsyth, Avista Corp.’s chief economist.

For instance, Amazon’s jobs with health benefits can increase demand for local health care services, Forsyth said.

The company’s continued expansion also will increase demand for labor in Spokane and potentially draw workers from Lincoln, Stevens and Kootenai counties, he said.

“When you draw employers in, it opens up more opportunities for people in the labor market,” Forsyth said. “It also draws people in from out of the area, so you continue to see in-migration to the region. Because of the deepening labor market, there is more opportunity and reasons for people to move here.”

The Seattle-based company already has hired 16 people for its leadership team at the Spokane Valley fulfillment center and plans to recruit for more positions via career fair, said Joe Wistos, general manager of the Spokane Valley fulfillment center.

“We were able to hire locally for most of our leadership positions, so we’re bringing on people that have a lot of industry experience in the market to be operations managers for us and to lead teams,” he said. “We’ve had a really easy time recruiting talent in this market.”

Other positions at the fulfillment center include commercial drivers, supervisory roles, manifest clerks and process assistance workers, Wistos said.

“There’s a lot of opportunity, depending on what you want to do – from data analytics to leading teams,” Wistos said.

Amazon’s presence in the Spokane area is growing rapidly, with plans for an air-cargo facility at Spokane International Airport, a delivery station on the West Plains and the fulfillment center in Spokane Valley.

The company’s “last-mile” delivery station – also slated to open in the fall, at 11901 W. McFarlane Road – is bringing hundreds of jobs with an average starting wage of $17 per hour and a variety of benefits, according to the company.

Amazon’s hourly employees have access to Amazon’s Career Choice program, which prepays 95% of tuition for courses in such high-demand fields as game design, nursing and IT programming. They also have the option to apply for other internal jobs, including software engineering.

“We started a program for our associates internally at Amazon, where they can get paid to study Python and some of the other coding languages that we use extensively,” Wistos said. “And we certainly see a lot of our associates go on to have really good careers with us as software engineers.”

The company reported it has created more than 80,000 direct jobs and 258,000 indirect jobs in the state, according to the economic impact report, and it has invested more than $129 billion in the state and $530 billion in the U.S. since 2010.