EDGE Amazon's Chattanooga distribution facility has between 2,000 and 2,500 full-time employees

EDGE Amazon's Chattanooga distribution facility has between 2,000 and 2,500 full-time employees

October 1st, 2017 by Mike Pare in EDGE

Staff photo by Doug Strickland / Amazon workers process goods at the internet retailer's Chattanooga distribution center.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Hamilton County’s Top 10

The biggest employers in Hamilton County by number of full- and part-time workers:

1. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee - 6,009 employees

2. Hamilton County Department of Education - 5,739 employees

3. Erlanger Health System - 4,845 employees

4. Tennessee Valley Authority - 3,520 employees

5. Volkswagen - 3,500

6. McKee Foods Corp. - 2,900 employees

7. CHI Memorial - 2,897 employees

8. Unum - 2,800 employees

9. Amazon - 2,781 employees

10. City of Chattanooga - 2,670 employees

Source: Companies, Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce

Inside Chattanooga's sprawling Amazon distribution center, there's a near-constant whirl of about 10 miles of conveyor belts sending packages throughout the building.

The busy facility that employs an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 full-time employees — and is still hiring — operates about 23 hours a day, says company spokeswoman Rena Lunak.

"We have two shifts of full-time employees, morning and evening," she says during a recent tour of the Enterprise South industrial park site.

Amazon in August started filling nearly 1,000 new jobs at its Chattanooga and Charleston, Tenn., distribution centers as the world's largest internet retailer continues to expand its Southeast Tennessee workforce.

Staff file photo by Doug Strickland / Workers unpack items shipped from affiliates to the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Enterprise South Industrial Park.

Staff file photo by Doug Strickland / Workers...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Hundreds showed up to apply for jobs at the time in Chattanooga and at about 10 other centers nationally in a national job fair that wasn't even tied to the seasonal hiring Amazon does before Christmas annually to meet the holiday rush.

"It's based on customer demand," says Ali Hutchins, another Amazon spokeswoman, at the fulfillment center which sits across Volkswagen Drive from the German automaker's Chattanooga assembly plant.

Inside the facility, one common sight are the ubiquitous yellow totes which carry the thousands of goods that pass through the center. The Chattanooga location has 40,000 such totes, according to the Seattle-based company.

Packages move through about 2,500 scanners in the building, which has the floor space of an estimated 28 football fields, said Lunak.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said the city wants a diverse economy and has welcomed the growing Amazon presence.

"We've seen thousands of people employed by Amazon," he says, adding the company has offered a path for a better career.

Amazon announced in 2010 that the company was building 1 million-square-foot distribution centers in Chattanooga and Charleston, investing $139 million and creating more than 1,400 full-time jobs.

Amazon started with about 700 full-time workers in Chattanooga and 300 in Charleston when it began operations in 2011.

Now, combined with the Bradley County facility and part-time employees, the Seattle-based retailer has close to 4,000 workers in Southeast Tennessee, according to the company.

Travis Trivett, 27, who was at the job fair applying for a post, says he likes the benefits which the company offers to its employees.

"I want to see the opportunities they've got," he says.

Full-time posts at Amazon include medical benefits starting on day one, according to Amazon.

Also, the center includes a dedicated classroom as Amazon pre-pays 95 percent of employees' tuition for classes in high-demand fields, regardless of whether those skills are relevant to jobs at the online retailer. Having it on-site makes it handy and saves on transportation, the company says.

John Olsen, Amazon's vice president of worldwide operations-human resources, said the company received 20,000 applications on its so-called "jobs day" in August. Amazon is trying to fill 50,000 available slots at its more than 70 fulfillment centers and over 30 sortation centers across the country.

Throughout Tennessee, Amazon has more than 7,000 full-time employees at six facilities, the company said.

In addition to the fulfillment centers in Chattanooga and Charleston, there are similar facilities in Murfreesboro and Lebanon, a sortation center in Nashville that allows for Sunday delivery, and a Prime Now facility that provides free two-hour delivery on household items.

Additionally, Amazon recently announced plans to build its second headquarters, a project that could bring 50,000 workers and $5 billion in investments.

The company has said it would only consider locations in metropolitan areas with at least 1 million people in a business-friendly environment with connections to international airports, high quality of living and public transit.

While the population and airport requirements rule out Chattanooga, both Nashville and Atlanta are expected to heavily pursue the second headquarters to partner with its Seattle campus. The "HQ2" would potentially total more than 8 million square feet. The company said the new jobs would pay an average of more than $100,000 a year.

Cities and states have until Oct. 19 to turn in the requests for proposals.