Internet giant Amazon.com adding 100 jobs in Bradley County expansion

Internet giant Amazon.com adding 100 jobs in Bradley County expansion

March 27th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Powered industrial trucks are docked at charging stations at the Amazon facility.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

BRADLEY CENTER

• 20 football fields in size

• 6 miles of fiber-optic cable

• 28 miles of copper wire

• 196 wireless access points

Source: Amazon

AMAZON STATEWIDE

• 5 distribution centers (3 existing, 2 opening this year)

• 5 million square feet of space

• Creating more than 3,300 full-time jobs

• $270 million investment

Source: Amazon

CHARLESTON, Tenn. -- Amazon's distribution center here, which already can hold enough goods to fill an estimated 67,000 full-size pickup truck beds, soon will have space to handle even more.

Starting today, Amazon will begin work to add about 150,000 cubic feet of storage as it tries to meet growing demand at its massive facility, officials said Monday. As part of the expansion, Amazon already has added 100 more full-time jobs, converting them from seasonal slots.

Michael Thomas, the center's general manager, said the 1.2 million-square-foot facility now has a little more than 450 full-timers.

"It's all based on customer demand," he said.

The world's No. 1 Internet retailer last year opened the Bradley center and another similarly sized facility in Hamilton County in a $139 million investment.

Work is under way at Amazon's Chattanooga facility to add on to an existing mezzanine and boost floor space. That work is expected to be done by midsummer.

Thomas said the Bradley County site, which holds hundreds of thousands of items, typically carries goods larger in size than the Hamilton County location.

For example, the Bradley County center holds inventory such as lawn tractors, barbecue grills, and water heaters along with bulk items. It lacks the noisy array of long conveyor systems carrying smaller goods that line the Hamilton County center.

On Monday in the giant facility here, electric-powered forklifts scurried up and down its web of aisles, regularly beeping their horns to prevent a collision.

About three dozen forklift recharging stations line one side of the center.

Job growth

Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said Amazon originally pledged to create 250 full-time jobs at the Charleston site.

"Now, they've almost doubled that," he said.

State Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, said Amazon has "gone above and beyond" what it originally promised.

The House assistant majority leader said Amazon will have five distribution centers in Tennessee when it's finished building two more this year.

Doug Berry, vice president for economic development with the Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce, said Amazon fills "a good niche" in the area's labor market.

Cleveland, Tenn., Mayor Tom Rowland quipped that Amazon's Bradley distribution center is so big that "we could save a lot of money putting the airport on the roof." The city is relocating its airport.

Thomas said the new storage space will add about 20 percent more shelving to the facility. In addition to the shelving, the facility stores goods on the floor and in large racks that run nearly floor to ceiling.

Thomas said that increasing the height of the racks could create more storage space if needed.

He said that while the facility has about 100 part-timers on staff currently, it will begin ramping up hiring of more seasonal personnel closer to the busy Christmas holiday.

According to Amazon, the center had about 1,400 total jobs in 2011.

The head of the Chattanooga center said earlier this year that the two Southeast Tennessee facilities likely will have 5,000 workers at some point in 2012.