To keep our customers up to date, we like to share news that affects the Construction industry. This story is about Amazon’s 5.6 million dollar construction project in Holyoke Massachusetts.
HOLYOKE — Amazon has already begun $5.6 million in renovation work for its new distribution center at 161 Lower Westfield Road, and has told the local career center it is looking for a venue to host a hiring fair and fill 235 jobs.
Amazon hasn’t sought tax abatements from the city, said John A. Dyjach, Holyoke’s assistant director of economic development. Nor has it sought tax abatements from the state, according to spokespeople at the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, the agency that would handle such a request.
Holyoke Mayor Alex B. Morse announced Amazon’s plans for the building in a press release last month. That announcement followed months of speculation fueled by lengthy Planning Board deliberations over the building and what at the time was an undisclosed mystery tenant only rumored to be billionaire Jeff Bezos’ e-commerce juggernaut.
The building is owned by The O’Connell Companies of Holyoke. Until recently it housed the Paolo Freire Social Justice Charter School, which has moved to Chicopee. Before that it was a manufacturing facility for Atlas Copco.
Amazon has been tight-lipped on the project. Spokeswoman Shone Jemmott said this week that she didn’t have any details to reveal.
Morse said Amazon plans to open “this fall,” but none of the paperwork filed with the city has a more detailed timeline. That left it to city officials in the building, economic development and tax collection departments to describe the project.
Details on Amazon’s plans for the 145,000-square-foot facility come from a building permit issued by the city in July. The permit describes $3 million in work; $1.5 million in electrical improvements; $500,000 in plumbing work; $400,000 for heating, air conditioning and ventilation; and $200,000 for other mechanical work.
The O’Connell Companies pay $117,417 a year in taxes on the property, according to the Holyoke collector’s office.
Dyjach said that could change once the building is completed and the assessor’s office puts a new value on it. Holyoke’s commercial tax rate is $39.86 per thousand dollars of assessment.
Also, Holyoke might get more excise tax revenue if Amazon’s trucks are considered domiciled in the city, Dyjach said.
For Amazon, the new facility is a step toward establishing its own delivery and distribution system, expanded one-day shipping and its move away from reliance on the U.S. Postal Service and FedEx.
“Amazon is who Amazon is,” said Bill Rogalski, general manger of the nearby Holyoke Mall. “I think it speaks more to the fact that they want to become more independent from a delivery standpoint.”
In terms of jobs, the Amazon distribution center is the largest single economic development project in Holyoke in recent memory. It joins the more than 2,500 people who work at the MGM Springfield casino and the 179 employees at CRRC’s rail car factory in Springfield as recent major jobs creators.
Dyjach said Amazon told city officials it expects to hire 235 warehouse workers. Amazon also expects there to be 168 delivery service personnel and 210 flex drivers potentially servicing the distribution center.
Amazon has already distributed a text message code for those who want Amazon hiring information, said Bud Delphin, vice president of program services at the MassHire Holyoke Career Center, the former CareerPoint. People can text the word WESTMASS to 77088 to sign up for automated text messages about job openings.
Delphin said the new jobs are especially helpful in this economy, because Amazon will hire folks who have no further education past a high school diploma.
Amazon recently announced a nationwide minimum wage of $15 an hour, higher than Massachusetts’ minimum wage of $12 an hour. Massachusetts’ minimum wage is set to increase incrementally to $15 by 2023.
Delphin high demand for workers in an era of low unemployment is driving wage growth to $15 an hour now. In July, the most recent month for which numbers are available, the Greater Springfield region had an unemployment rate of 3.7%.
“I don’t know how they are going to compete without ($15 an hour),” Delphin said. “There is a lot of competition out there. Amazon is a big name. People are attracted to a big name.”
Amazon already has a big Massachusetts presence, according to its website, with 4,000 employees in the state. It said it has invested more than $3 billion in the state since 2011 on customer fulfillment and cloud computing infrastructure, research facilities and compensation to employees. Amazon has fulfillment centers in Everett, Fall River and Stoughton.
The company’s 1.5 million-square-foot facility in Windsor, Connecticut, has 1,600 or 1,700 employees, said Jim Burke, the town’s director of economic development. It opened in 2016.
“They built the facility in one configuration and ran it for a year and decided they wanted to automate more completely,” Burke said. “It went dark and refitted for a while two years ago. Obviously, it has created jobs and tax base for us.”
Pinnacle Logistics moved into Bradley International Airport in June of 2018 and operates three Boeing 767s a day hauling freight for Amazon. Pinnacle has 160 workers in 90,000 square feet of leased space.
Pinnacle moved its operations to Windsor Locks from T.F. Green Airport near Providence. It did so, according to the Teamsters union, because workers in Rhode Island were in the process of organizing.
Amazon also has a new 885,000-square-foot fulfillment center in North Haven, Connecticut, expected to have 1,800 employees.