Bessemer will have to be patient when it comes to the present it’s getting from Amazon.
That present – the online retailer’s first Alabama fulfillment center – won’t be delivered as quickly as company leaders projected at the groundbreaking in October.
But Jefferson County commissioners, speaking during and after their committee meeting this morning, said they are confident the center will come to fruition.
The Birmingham Business Journal reported Monday that the center will not open by the end of 2019 as originally projected. Construction continues in Bessemer on the $325 million fulfillment center, a project that is expected to create at least 1,500 jobs.
The Birmingham Business Journal said project incentives total at least $51 million.
Commissioner Steve Ammons, who chairs the commission’s development committee, said the county is still paving the road on Powder Plant Road for the retail operation. He said the company’s delay is still within the bounds set by the contract.
“The contract they’ve laid out as far as incentives are concerned deal with them opening operations no later than December 31st, 2020,” Ammons said. “I know at the groundbreaking they said they were trying to get where they could be opened before Christmas of 2019 but they’ve had some things that have held them up.
David Carrington, Ammons’ predecessor on the commission, was surprised by the ambitious start-up date that Amazon officials projected.
“I knew the company had the reputation of being able to do things but then they said, ‘We want it open next Christmas,’” Carrington told Birmingham Watch at the groundbreaking. “I went, ‘2019?’ That is an aggressive timeline. But 1,500 jobs at $15 an hour? That’s great for this community.”
Bessemer lies in the district of Commission President Jimmie Stephens, who spoke Monday with Bessemer city officials. He said everything that has been asked of the municipality and all the entities has been fulfilled.
“This is purely internal and a matter of timing with Amazon,” Stephens said. “Our contractual agreement says by December of 2020. They’re just utilizing that particular clause in (the contract) to delay the opening.”
Stephens said the adjusted timeframe for operating the center could be for any reason. He said it could be the loss of a fulfillment center to recent tornadoes. Geekwire.com reported that a tornado caused a wall to collapse at an Amazon fulfillment center in Baltimore, Maryland, in November.
“They may be shifting resources, or they may just be waiting on market timing,” the commission president said. “They don’t think they can be up and running by Christmas of this year but I’m sure they will be by Christmas of next year. They’ve told us the process is ongoing and they have total confidence in the location and the labor force and the cooperation that we have.”