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Hundreds of new full-time jobs expected at 750,000-square-foot facility

For the past several months, Lakeville city leaders have been using a code name to refer to a potential tenant in Airlake Industrial Park.

The business behind the code name was revealed during the Monday City Council meeting as the world’s largest online company Amazon.

Amazon, which began as a startup selling books online and was recently valued at $1.4 trillion, will extend its global footprint to Lakeville with a 750,000-square-foot facility that is expected to employ hundreds of people, according to Ryan Wilson, economic development manager for Amazon.

“I am excited to be speaking with you and excited to be joining the community,” said Wilson, who joined the meeting via conference call.

Developer Scannell Properties and city leaders also expressed their excitement during the meeting, as the large-item warehouse and shipping facility will be the largest building in Airlake Industrial Park – five football fields long and 48 feet high.

The facility, which will be located southeast of County Road 70 and Jacquard Avenue on most of the 131-acre site, will bring with it jobs, a boost to the tax base and cache of the ubiquitous Amazon brand.

It comes at a time when Amazon’s online product delivery service has increased, as the global COVID-19 pandemic has made people more apt to order items large and small from Amazon and having products delivered to their homes, rather than shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.

The Lakeville site will deepen the company’s “fulfillment center” strategy, which is to bring products as close to consumers as possible before they are ordered so delivery times can be reduced.

“All the company’s warehouses are strategically placed near big metros and population hubs, and inventory is spread amongst them to ensure supply can meet demand,” according to Amazon partner Tinuiti.

The Lakeville building, which has already had site grading started, would be filled with large, bulky items such as workout machines, mattresses and grills, Wilson said.

The timing of the construction is expected to align with conversion of County Road 70 from a two-lane road to a four-lane divided highway. Stage 1 work has started this year, with Stage 2 work taking place in 2021.

Both the Amazon facility and County Road 70 work from Cedar Avenue to near Interstate 35 are expected to be completed by fall 2021.

The Lakeville site would complement, Amazon’s fulfillment center in nearby Shakopee, which is an even larger 855,000-square-foot facility that opened in 2017. Automation is as the heart of that fulfillment center, but Wilson said the Lakeville site would be people-driven.

Wilson said Amazon has had a more than $4 billion economic impact in Minnesota since 2010 with its current operations. That impact includes infrastructure investment, tax revenues, product sales in Minnesota and compensation paid to its 4,500-plus employees.

Wilson said the location will create hundreds of new full-time jobs, offering more than $15 an hour, along with health and dental benefits. While many of those jobs will be in the warehouse related to the “pick, pack and ship” operation, there will also be staff hiring in human resources, finance and information technology departments.

Wilson described the location as a self-contained business with a wide range of jobs, and has dedicated 300 parking stalls for employees.

He said hiring would start next summer.

Amazon would likely be in the top 10 of the city’s top private company employers, which according to the city includes Hearthside Food Solutions with 556 employees, TreeHouse Private Brands with 550, Schmitty & Sons transportation with 454, Post Consumer Brands with 450, BTD Manufacturing with 375, Menasha Corp. with 306 and FedEx Freight with 228.

Wilson said Amazon is focused on career development for its associates, offering programs that help them build a resume, hone their interview skills and improve their skills in interacting with co-workers and supervisors.

“They might take that skill somewhere else, but that’s the right thing to do,” Wilson said. “We want to invest in our people.”

The company also offers a tuition reimbursement program that helps employees earn certifications or degrees at local community colleges.

There was some discussion about traffic impact, but no issues were raised in the plan’s review from Dakota County’s Plat Commission or the city of Lakeville’s Planning Commission.

Amazon is widely known for its dark blue delivery vans and semi-trailers with the company’s smile logo on them.

Traffic volumes on County Road 9 (Dodd Boulevard) to the west of the site and County Road 70 are 6,550 and 11,000 average daily trips, respectively, and are anticipated to be 13,300 and 17,000 average daily trips by the year 2030, according to the county.

Wilson said Amazon has made a climate pledge to have net zero carbon emissions by 2040 – 10 years ahead of the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

“That is something we are taking very seriously,” Wilson said.

The company has invested millions in ensuring that it is using as much renewable energy as possible and it recently purchased 100,000 electric vehicles for its is converting its delivery fleet. He said the company will be net zero on carbon emission for deliveries by 2030.

As part of the 131-acre development, Scannell Properties will retain 38.35 acres as lots for future development of other industrial buildings.

Tad Johnson can be reached at tad.johnson@apgecm.com.

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