By Sarah Pinkerton | Staff Writer, Video by Grace Smith | Broadcast Reporter
Gov. Greg Abbott was in Waco on Friday to announce the building of a new local Amazon robotics fulfillment center coming in 2021.
The center will be at 2000 Exchange Parkway, near Bagby Avenue, and Abbot said that it will be a “booster rocket for the central Texas economy.” Construction has already begun, and the building is the fourth Fortune 100 manufacturing distribution facility in Waco.
While the site is set to be 700,000 square feet, Abbott told the crowd at the Waco Convention Center that Texans don’t measure projects by square footage or by acreage.
“We measure it in the number of football field that it occupies,” Abbott said. “Now, anybody who’s been to McLane Stadium and watched where the Baylor Bears play football, you’d know the size of that football field. Multiply that times 12 and the facility that Amazon is opening up here is more than 12 Baylor football fields.”
It will be the largest distribution center in Waco and will employ 1,000 new people with a minimum pay of $15 per hour.
“It creates a ripple effect where that 1,000 new jobs could lead to an additional 2,000 more jobs in the Central Texas region,” Abbott said.
Abbott said Waco should also see more people coming to the area.
Amazon’s Regional Director of Operations, William Hicks, said that they will hire for roles in Human Resources, Operation Management, safety, security and information technology.
“Last year, Amazon pledged to invest more than $700 million to provide workforce development and training opportunities for more than 100,000 US employees,” Hicks said.
He said that there is significant customer demand in the Waco area.
“We know that folks in Waco, everybody at Baylor, wants that package really, really quickly, so we’ve got to be able to turn it around in a very expeditious way, and having a set of inventory right here in Waco allows us to be able to do that,” Hicks said.
Hicks also said that at the Amazon site in Houston different internships are offered to students at the University of Houston. He expects the same thing in Waco.
“Also, we do a lot of community outreach that … we’re really excited to be able to partner with the school to be able to do things together,” Hicks said.
McLennan County Judge Scott Felton also spoke at the event and said predictions have been made that it will bring $700 million in economic activity in the next 10 years. He stated he think this is the “fastest developing project” that he’d seen.
“Especially for one this size,” Felton said. “It’s been, despite the size, very agile moving forward.”
He said there is already $200 million in investment and 200 construction workers on the site.
Waco City Councilman John Kinnaird said this is the single largest capital investment and creation project that he has seen as he nears the end of his 8-year tenure in office.
“[This] will provide new opportunities for our citizens and create some positive peer pressure on our other local employers in terms of the wages they pay,” Kinnaird said.
He also said this new center will make Amazon one of the largest, if not the largest, taxpayer in Waco.
“[This facility will create] tax base growth that will help ensure that we continue to provide the critical services of infrastructure and public safety and ancillary quality of life things like libraries and parks that our citizens put people like me in charge to provide,” Kinnaird said.
He said that in his final weeks of service, he will encourage staff to consider a new policy that will put funds from the tax revenue generated by this project into workforce development and skills training for Waco citizens.
“We can invest in ourselves,” Kinnaird said. “To ensure that we provide the skilled and experienced workforce to meet the demands of the jobs that we’re creating and that others in this town are creating as well.”
Hicks said that Amazon has invested more than $17 billion into Texas and created more than 43,000 jobs.
Abbott said that throughout his time as governor, whenever he asks business leaders why they come to Texas, they emphasize that the state has a top-quality workforce and a good business environment.
“That first economic development project I was involved in was with Amazon in Schertz, Texas,” Abbott said. “Ever since that time five years ago, Amazon has continued to grow in the state of Texas.”