Amazon moving forward with Sparrows Point distribution center that will employ 1,500

The Baltimore region will get a fourth Amazon distribution facility. The online retail giant announced Wednesday that it will open one employing 1,500 people in Sparrows Point.

Amazon had been in negotiations to build the 855,000-square-foot center at Tradepoint Atlantic, the site of the massive steel mill that closed in 2012, according to Baltimore County officials, but had not publicly confirmed those plans.

The Sparrows Point center, which will open in 2019, will be a “state-of-the-art fulfillment center in historic Sparrows Point” and “continue innovation in a state committed to providing great opportunities for jobs and customer experience,” said Sanjay Shah, Amazon’s vice president of North America customer fulfillment, in the announcement.

Officials did not disclose the size of Amazon’s planned investment in the center.

Amazon already employs about 5,000 people in Maryland, spread across three other sorting and distribution centers in Baltimore and North East.

Workers at the new facility will pick, pack and ship electronics, books, toys and other merchandise.

The new center will be about 7 miles from two Amazon facilities located on the site of a former General Motors plant on Broening Highway.

Amazon’s decision to open another facility in the Baltimore region comes as several places in the state, including the city and Howard and Prince George’s counties, attempt to attract Amazon’s coveted second headquarters. The retailer’s HQ2 promises to bring an investment of $5 billion and 50,000 jobs.

The Sparrows Point center is separate from that nationwide search. Baltimore County did not submit a bid for the second headquarters, instead backing a bid by the developer of Port Covington in Baltimore.

Gov. Larry Hogan said luring Amazon and the new jobs has been a “top priority” of his administration.

“Amazon’s decision to open a fourth facility in our state is tremendous news for this local community and for Maryland as a whole,” Hogan said in the announcement.

Department of Commerce officials spent several months working with Amazon to find a location and hammer out the economic incentives, said Allison Mayer, managing director of marketing for the state Department of Commerce.

Tradepoint Atlantic was quickly identified as the best site, Mayer said.

Eric Gilbert, Tradepoint Atlantic’s chief development officer, said Amazon’s choice of the Sparrows Point property is “further validation of the unique logistical advantages we offer.”

Tradepoint officials have touted the site’s industrial zoning and access to a deep-water port, two rail lines and interstate highways.

Since purchasing the former steel mill in 2014, Tradepoint Atlantic has worked to convert the property to an industrial campus. Other Tradepoint tenants include FedEx, which opened a sorting center this year, and Under Armour, which plans to open an e-commerce fulfillment center next year.

“I’m glad to see the momentum at Tradepoint Atlantic is continuing, with yet another world-class company coming to the area offering at least 1,500 jobs,” said Baltimore County Councilman Todd Crandell, a Dundalk Republican who represents the Sparrows Point area.

Crandell said he’s pleased that the Amazon jobs include benefits such as healthcare, 401(k) plans and tuition assistance.

The Baltimore County Council voted unanimously last month to support a $2.2 million incentive package to bring Amazon to the industrial development being created at Tradepoint Atlantic.

The county is offering a $200,000 conditional loan, which represents a required 10 percent match of a $2 million conditional loan from the state Department of Commerce.

Conditional loans are generally converted to grants that the recipient does not have to pay back if goals are met, such as hiring a certain number of employees.

In this case, Amazon must employ 1,500 workers at Tradepoint Atlantic by 2020, maintain 4,800 employees statewide and spend at least $125 million on building and outfitting the center, Mayer said.

Amazon’s $2 million conditional loan will come from the state’s Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund, which has a $20 million budget this year, Mayer said. The $2 million must be spent on “hard costs” such as construction, infrastructure and equipment — not salaries or operational costs.

In announcing the new center, Amazon touted its economic impact on the state. It estimates its investments of million of dollars in fulfillment centers have created an additional 3,000 indirect jobs in the state in addition to its own employees. The company said it added $100 million to the state’s economy between 2014 and 2016 through its investments.

“This is what job creation looks like: a world-class company investing in the region,” Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said in the announcement.

Kamenetz is among several Democrats running for governor in 2018 in hopes of unseating Hogan, a Republican.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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