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Since the June announcement that Amazon would be constructing a fulfillment center at the old Pratt & Whitney site, reports have focused on economic effects on the town and the number of jobs the center would provide. The online retailer’s recent acquisition of grocer Whole Foods may add another element to the massive project.
First Selectman Michael Freda said that with Amazon’s Whole Foods purchase, discussions have taken place regarding a refrigeration component to the fulfillment center. He said he’ll meet with Hillwood Development Company, Amazon’s developer for the site, in September to determine whether a redesign of the building is necessary.
“Although we don’t know exactly yet, I think any time there’s a refrigeration component to a large distribution facility, the town may be in line to receive more personal property taxes as a result of that,” Freda said.
In addition to taxes, the refrigeration component may indicate area homes could add Amazon as an option for home grocery delivery, a service locally dominated by Stop & Shop’s Peapod.
Groundbreaking could begin around late September, with the projected completion of the project being somewhere around spring 2019, according to Freda.
Amazon spokesperson Lauren Lynch said that an Amazon fulfillment center, such as the one coming to North Haven, is where employees use robotics to pick, pack, and ship products to the consumer.
In an email, Lynch also detailed some of the benefits Amazon employees receive. All full-time associates at Amazon fulfillment centers receive employer-paid benefits beginning on day one. Part-time employees working 20 hours a week or more also receive benefits, including life and disability, dental, and vision insurance with premiums paid in full by Amazon and a contribution toward medical insurance.
In addition to on-the-job training, all employees who have been working for at least one continuous year are eligible for the company’s Career Choice program that pre-pays 95 percent of tuition to earn certificates and associate degrees in high-demand occupations such as aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies, nursing, and many other fields.
Amazon will also reimburse 95 percent of the cost of all required textbooks. The program will pay up to $12,000 in tuition, textbooks, and associated fees over four years. Lynch said that after employees complete their program, they can go off and do the job of their choosing and don’t have to go back to Amazon.
Amazon also opened a fulfillment center in Windsor, which opened about two years ago. .
The facility there is similar in size to the one coming to North Haven, according to the Windsor Economic Development Director Jim Burke.
Burke said that Amazon hired about 300 employees in its first year, in line with the number projected in an Amazon press release from 2013.
However, Burke said the center “ramped up” during the holiday season that year, with about 900 employees working over three shifts. He said in the second year, the number of regular employees increased to about 500.
In a press release, Amazon said the North Haven facility expects to generate “more than 1,500 new, full-time jobs.”
Burke said Windsor saw a Grand List increase and an increase in property tax collection as a result of the fulfillment center. He said there haven’t been any significant problems other than an initial problem of getting people onto the site, noting that employees were walking on the road because a bus route hadn’t been changed, but said the issue eventually got resolved.
Freda said there’s been a lot of excitement in the Greater New Haven area as a result of the Amazon announcement in North Haven, and he is trying to create an environment where local trade workers can participate in the project.
He said R.C. Anderson, the construction management firm for the site, has agreed to meet with him sometime in late September or early October to allow Freda to make connections with local workers and people who want to be a part of the project.
The annual tax revenue on the North Haven property is $162,000 for the vacant land, and Freda estimated that number will increase to anywhere from $3.2 to $4.8 million once the building is fully up and running in the first year.
As a result of Amazon coming to town, Freda said that he’s talking to developers all over the state who are interested in North Haven, and is working with developers and site owners on areas of Washington Avenue and surrounding locations to redevelop old buildings and bring in new businesses.
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