Amazon held the official groundbreaking Tuesday for its first large-scale fulfillment center in Alabama, on a site just off Powder Plant Road in Bessemer.
Dozens of state and local officials, including Gov. Kay Ivey, came to put shovels into a long mound and fling red dirt into the air.
“This is a great day for Bessemer, a great day for Amazon and a great day for the state of Alabama,” Ivey said. “Momentum is on our side and that’s made possible when companies like Amazon choose to locate and do business in our great state.”
Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley echoed that sentiment.
“We are excited to have Amazon here in our city and we are excited about the possibilities it will bring,” he said. “You talk about 1,500 new jobs in our city and you talk about an 855,000-square-foot facility, you know it is just an awesome day for the city of Bessemer.”
When complete, the $325 million facility – which will have the footprint of nearly 15 football fields – will employ 1,500 people with a starting minimum wage of $15 and company benefits that start on Day 1.
“What you see behind me is the starting phase of a building that will be more than 855,000 square feet at its base with nearly 2.5 million square feet of operating space,” said Ryan Lively, operations manager for Amazon. “The facility will house Amazon’s latest technology in robots and 1,500 associates will work on a regular basis to fulfill customer orders.”
Smaller sized items will be packed and shipped at the site. Those items include books, toys, health care products and electronic devices.
Plans are for the building to be operational before the peak holiday season of 2019.
“On the state level, my team and I are focused on making days like today the everyday norm and not the exception,” the governor said, noting the cooperation of multiple local officials. “It truly takes everyone working together to make our state succeed.”
Ferdinand C. Seefried, whose Seefried Properties was involved in site preparation, joked that the temperature of Tuesday’s ceremony was much warmer than his native Austria.
“This has been a challenging site because of its geological characteristics,” he said. “It is also a site with an interesting history which is representative of the economic evolution of Birmingham and of Bessemer. The former U.S. Steel property is becoming a fulfillment center for the largest e-commerce retailer on this globe, Amazon.”
David Carrington, the Jefferson County commissioner who chairs the county’s development committee, recalled the cold, January day when he and representatives of Amazon first visited the Powder Plant Road site.
“I knew the company had the reputation of being able to do things but then they said, ‘We want it open next Christmas,’” Carrington recounted. “I went, ‘2019?’ That is an aggressive timeline. But 1,500 jobs at $15 an hour? That’s great for this community.”