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

Amazon confirms fulfillment center in Spokane Valley; new facility will employ more than 1,000

Potential employees trickle in at the Amazon warehouse on the West Plains in June 2020. Amazon announced Thursday it's planning to open a delivery station later this year in Airway Heights.   (JESSE TINSLEY/The Spokesman-Review)

After months of speculation, Amazon hasconfirmed it will open a fulfillment center in Spokane Valley that the company says will bring 1,000 new full-time jobs to the area.

The 1.3 million-square-foot facility, 18007 E. Garland Ave., is slated to open later this year. It will fulfill orders for larger items such as bulk cleaning supplies, paper goods, patio furniture, pet food and outdoor sports equipment.

Added to the existing 4,000 jobs at its Airway Heights fulfillment center, the 1,000 positions at the Spokane Valley operation would make Amazon the second-largest private employer and fourth-largest employer in Spokane County.

“We’re excited to continue our growth in the Spokane area, adding our third fulfillment center of this type to our greater Pacific Northwest operations,” Catie Hydeman, Amazon’s North American customer fulfillment non-sort operations director, said in a statement. “Amazon is grateful for the warm welcome we received from the community when we launched our new Spokane fulfillment center last year. We are pleased by the continued support from community leaders and look forward to growing these partnerships in the years ahead.”

The new fulfillment center will help enable faster shipping times for customer orders of larger items, according to a company release. 

Later this year, Amazon will begin hiring for a wide range of roles involving receiving and stowing inventory, shipping customer orders and supporting network logistics at the fulfillment center.

“We look at this as a kudos for our region,” said Cara Coon, spokeswoman for Greater Spokane Incorporated. “I believe it shows some trust by Amazon for our region that they are putting two very large facilities here. And, they are good-paying jobs at a time when our community really needs that.”

Jobs at the fulfillment center begin at $15 an hour and include a comprehensive benefits package. Employees also will have access to Amazon’s Career Choice program, which prepays 95% of tuition for courses in high-demand fields such as nursing and IT programming.

Grant Forsyth, Avista Corp.’s chief economist, said the new jobs will provide a major boost to a region pummeled by job losses in the hospitality sector during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There are these ripple effects that will help job creation because of those 1,000 Amazon jobs,” Forsyth said. “Once you get a 1,000 people out there back to work and spending, that generates other jobs.”

Employees at the West Plains fulfillment center, which opened last year at 10010 W. Geiger Blvd., work alongside Amazon Robotics to pick, pack and ship customer orders for smaller items, such as books and housewares.

Amazon has created more than 80,000 jobs in Washington and invested more than $98.8 billion across the state, including infrastructure and compensation, according to the company.

Doug Tweedy, regional economist for the Washington state Employment Security Department, said the new employees in Spokane Valley will add to a growing segment of the economy.

“It’s not just Amazon increasing jobs. It’s also UPS and FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service,” Tweedy said. “They are riding that wave of people shopping from home and getting their purchases delivered. We do know that transportation and warehouse … is a significant, permanent trend going forward.”

In October, an unknown company – later revealed to be Amazon – applied for grading and foundation permits with the city for the large distribution facility listed as Project Fireball.

Last week, the city approved a building permit valued at $150.7 million for the project. At the time, Amazon would not confirm whether it was considering a fulfillment center in Spokane Valley.

Chicago-based Clayco Inc. is the project contractor, according to the permit. Clayco has partnered with Amazon to build more than 17 e-commerce centers nationwide ranging in size from 500,000 to 1 million square feet, according to Clayco’s website.

The Spokane Valley fulfillment center will be built on nearly 80 acres of land owned by Centennial Properties, a subsidiary of the Cowles Co., which also publishes The Spokesman-Review.

The site is within Spokane Valley’s 500-acre northeast industrial area, which is also home to Katerra’s cross-laminated timber plant. More than two years ago, Spokane Valley city officials began laying the groundwork to bring new businesses and jobs to the industrial area.

The city partnered with Spokane County to extend utilities to the area, embarked on road improvements and created a planned action ordinance that identifies traffic and environmental impacts before developers file for permits, increasing predictability and reducing project timelines.

“It’s great to have such a fantastic new anchor tenant in that Garland (Avenue) development area. Landing someone like Amazon helps solidify that space,” said Lance Beck, president and CEO of the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce. “If anything, it makes the area more attractive for additional development to take place.”

Beck said the Chamber is looking forward to seeing what Amazon will do in terms of workforce development and additional investment in the community as the company grows its presence in the region.

Amazon also is planning a large delivery station and warehouse at the former site of Lowe’s Home Improvement in north Spokane, according to a permit filed with the city in January. Amazon’s delivery stations prepare orders for “last-mile delivery” to customers.

More than 200 people will be working at the delivery station, according to project documents.

Forsyth, the Avista economist, acknowledged that Amazon does not have the greatest track record of producing high-paying jobs.

“But, you also have to acknowledge that prolonged unemployment has a lot of negative costs,” he said. “In net, I still think it’s beneficial to the region.”