The 850,000-square-foot Amazon warehouse won't be opening this fall, as had been planned, a company spokesman said. (File photo)
More than a year has passed since e-commerce giant Amazon Inc. announced plans to build an 850,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Gaines Township, six miles northwest of Barry County.
Earlier reports had indicated the $150 million facility at the southwest corner of 68th Street and Patterson Avenue in southern Kent County would open this fall, in time for the holiday season.
Those plans have changed.
“We remain committed to launching our new facility in Grand Rapids, providing 1,000 full-time jobs to the area, starting at $15/hour with comprehensive benefits from Day One,” Amazon spokesman Andre Woodson said. “The only thing that’s changed with our plans is the exact timing; it’s still to be determined.”
The facility has been described by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. as a robotics location where items such as books, toys and electronics will be picked, packed and shipped.
Little information has been offered on the project's status since ground was broken at the 104-acre site in June 2018. Gaines Township signed a non-disclosure agreement with Amazon shortly before construction began so that township officials could not speak publicly about the project.
“We had to be very careful with what we say,” township Supervisor Rob DeWard said.
The township fulfillment center will be the fourth such Amazon facility in Michigan, and the first outside the Detroit area. The other fulfillment centers are in Livonia, Romulus and Shelby Charter Township.
Amazon received an occupancy permit from Gaines Township for the fulfillment center in June of this year, about a year after breaking ground. The company has a pending application for a second occupancy permit tied to some work that is being done inside the facility, according to John Stuyfzand, the township's building inspector.
“There were some conveyor systems and internal systems that they were working on,” Stuyfzand said. “I believe they're pretty close to being finished.”
Woodson said that factors such as customer demand and available workforce will enter in to the decision as to when Amazon will open the Gaines Township facility.
“We are a dynamic business and have dozens of fulfillment centers, sortation centers and delivery stations that are evolving and under construction across the country,” he said. “It’s common for us to adjust launch timetables based on capacity needs across the network. For this reason, we keep our launch dates flexible to account for shifts in schedules.”
State and local officials approved several tax incentives to help lure Amazon to West Michigan.
For example, the MEDC in May 2018 approved a $4 million Michigan Business Performance grant to Amazon to help pay for construction of the fulfillment center. At the time of the award, the company had to create at least 475 jobs by August of this year. To date, none of those funds have been allocated to Amazon, MEDC spokeswoman Kathy Achterberg said.
At the local level, an industrial development district for the property was approved in August 2018 on a 5-2 vote of the Gaines Township board. Two months later, the board approved a local tax abatement that reduces the company's local property and school taxes by 50 percent over the next 12 years by a similar vote. Township Treasurer Laurie Lemke was one of the two no votes, along with Trustee Dan Fryling.
“They were already here, they were already building,” Lemke said. “They had made the decision to move into our township (before the local abatement request was filed). I feel in this case, it wasn't warranted.”
The Right Place, an economic development organization that serves the Grand Rapids metro area, assisted in helping bring Amazon to the Gaines Township location.
Seefried Industrial Properties Inc., of Atlanta, is the developer handling construction of the Amazon facility.