An Amazon fulfillment center that was supposed to open in Port St. Lucie last year and generate 500 jobs remains closed with an indefinitely delayed start date, company officials told TCPalm.
Although Amazon has paused, cancelled and "mothballed" many of its operations across the U.S. since COVID-19 isolation ended, the company is committed to leasing the Midway Business Park warehouse that Seefried Industrial Properties built off Interstate 95, Amazon spokesperson Sam Stephenson said.
"Once we have a clearer understanding of the timing, we will collaborate with the local community and employment organizations in the area to onboard hundreds of employees for this facility," he said.
Two years ago, Amazon announced it would open the 1.1 million-square-foot "first-mile" center to store goods received from providers or manufacturers, then pack and ship them after customers purchase them.
Associates of Nuveen Asset Management LLC, a global investment management firm a county document lists as the building owner, declined to comment about Amazon not opening the facility yet. Port St. Lucie Mayor Shannon Martin said Amazon has not disclosed exactly why the building remains vacant.
"I cannot definitively explain the reason behind the delayed opening of that center," she said. "However, it's worth noting that across the country, Amazon has constructed several facilities that remain unopened."
Amazon continues to lease a 220,000-square-foot fulfillment center it opened last fall in Tradition's Legacy Park. But the company last year closed a 60,000-square-foot fulfillment center it leased off Kings Highway in Fort Pierce in late 2019. Amazon had said each facility would employ 200 workers making an average $15 an hour.
Amazon expanded in coronavirus pandemic
Amazon expanded its U.S. centers after the coronavirus pandemic sparked increased demand in online orders, but it may have overexpanded, CEO Andy Jassy said in a February company meeting.
"In the early part of 2022, I think we realized that … we had more capacity than we needed. And you saw us in the early part of 2022 delay some of our builds and mothball some of our facilities to try to be more economical," Jassy said, according to a statement Stephenson emailed TCPalm.
Still, Amazon increased its square footage for data, fulfillment and other miscellaneous facilities in North America to 26.6 million in 2022, Stephenson said. Despite increased operating costs from increased sales, Amazon intends to develop this network, according to its second quarterly report released Aug. 3.
Amazon manages 830 North American sites, according to its April 2022 shareholder letter.
Did Amazon receive tax benefits?
Unlike FedEx and Cheney Brothers, which built distribution warehouses off Interstate 95 in Port St. Lucie, Amazon did not receive tax benefits because its salary does not meet state requirements, according to the city's Economic Development Services department.
"Amazon did not receive incentives from the city of Port St. Lucie, so we don't have to worry about tax abatement," the mayor said.
Major employers are eligible to receive tax benefits for up to 10 years if they create a significant number of jobs, pay higher wages or make larger capital investments, either in new construction or equipment.
Property taxes help fund various city services, such as parks, transit, schools and fire departments. The two Amazon facilities, with assessed property values totaling $129.17 million, will generate over $2.9 million in property tax revenue — $2.3 million from the Midway Business Center and $638,000 from Legacy Park — according to the Truth in Millage (TRIM) notices issued this month.
Property values in both areas have increased since the warehouses were built, according to the TRIM notices. Southern Grove, home of Legacy Park, is valued at $28.05 million, up from $4.16 million last year. Midway Park is valued at $101.12 million, up from $10.68 million, said Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County spokesperson Maureen Saltzer.
Amazon plans to build or lease more fulfillment centers in Martin and Indian River counties, but has not disclosed dates or locations, Stephenson said.
"Once we have a clearer sense of timing, we will collaborate with the local community and employment organizations to facilitate hiring for these upcoming facilities," he said.
Ananya Tiwari is TCPalm’s business reporter. You can email her at [email protected] or follow her on X (formerly known as Twitter) at @Ananyati, or on Facebook at @ananyatiwarijournalist.