BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Amazon’s new fulfillment center, a quarter-million square foot warehouse and distribution hub just north of the Meadows Field airport, has been operating close to the vest since the project was first made public two years ago.
The shroud of secrecy was finally lifted Thursday — mostly — when Amazon officials gave a first-glimpse tour — hard hats and masks mandatory — to local government officials and the media.
At 240,000 square feet — or 64,000 square feet for each of the building’s four floors — the Amazon Fulfillment Center becomes the largest building in Kern County and by a substantial margin. It’s a sight to behold — on the outside, definitely, but on the inside especially.
Inside is a network of conveyor belts, shafts, and other product movers — highly automated, but not so automated it won’t require 1,000 employees.
Only a fraction of those employees were on hand for Thursday’s tour, attended by Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh and several top county administrators, including CAO Ryan Alsop, Fifth District Supervisor Leticia Perez , and the woman who deserves much of the credit for making this happen, Kern County Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt — who enticed Amazon to open its 26th California fulfillment center with $3 million in local tax rebates in exchange for the jobs Amazon would provide.
These aren’t high paying jobs, but at $15 an hour for the rank and file positions, they’re not bad either, especially considering Amazon’s benefits package, which includes opportunities for higher education.
Amazon General Manager Amit Sonar says the fulfillment center officially opens for business Sept. 6.
“We are committed to making sure that we are creating a positive economic environment here and providing great employment opportunities for the residents here and the community around here,” he said in opening remarks.
Teresa Hitchcock of the county’s Economic Development Department, said the fulfillment center’s proximity to Meadows Field airport is perfect.
“A thousand jobs, all with benefits. It’s fantastic for our community but also for the airport as we become more and more of a logistics hub,” she said. “One would expect to see that drive for additional commercial activity at the airport potentially a way of (establishing) more commercial flights so our public has better access to the rest of the United States. Also in the way of air cargo and getting more good services through here. So it’s really good synergism to have it right here by the airport. We’re really excited about it.”
The fulfillment center solidifies Kern County’s status as a distribution hub increasingly populated by these mega-warehouses, such as the Hadco metal distribution center right across Merle Haggard Drive from Amazon.
With miles of open land surrounding the airport, that’s a direction county officials would love to keep traveling. Already, according to local officials, Kern County is now home to 50 million square feet of logistics space.