Governor Parson tours new Amazon Fulfillment Center in Republic
REPUBLIC, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri Governor Mike Parson was in Republic, Mo. on Monday to take a tour of the new Amazon warehouse that opened on August 1. It is now one of four “Fulfillment Centers” in Missouri, which is what Amazon calls its huge facilities where items sold over the internet are brought in and shipped out with a turnaround time of just 33 minutes.
“What an impressive facility,” Parson remarked over going through the 1.4 million-square-foot warehouse that covers the equivalent of 24 football fields. “What a great opportunity for our state and how huge it is for the labor market here in southwest Missouri.”
In just six weeks of operation, the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Republic has created more than 1,400 jobs with that number expected to grow to near 2,000 during the holiday season.
Amazon is currently hiring now with a starting wage of $15.50 an hour.
“People can go on the internet to find the jobs available or come here (3200 East Sawyer Rd. in Republic) where we’re basically open 8:30 to 5,” said Human Resources Manager Tim Baltes. “Walk-ins or appointments are available.”
The facility, in contrast to the quiet farmland next door, is a busy place with semi-trucks arriving and leaving every couple of minutes.
But that’s something you’d expect from the largest internet retail company (ranked by revenue) in the world.
There are over 100 Fulfillment Centers in the U.S. and over 185 worldwide. Amazon has invested more than $2 billion in Missouri with 15 facilities in the state. The other three Fulfillment Centers are in Hazelwood, St. Peters and Berkeley and Amazon also has seven delivery stations (including one in Springfield), four Whole Foods Market locations and one Amazon 4-Star Store.
Started in 1994 Amazon was originally a small business started by Jeff Bezos to sell books out of his garage.
Now Amazon sells just about everything. But since everything wouldn’t fit in each warehouse, the items that people purchase on-line are brought in to the Fulfillment Centers from from either another FC or third party companies. In Missouri alone there are more than 24,000 small and medium-sized businesses who use Amazon to distribute their products or services.
It may surprise you to know that once the items arrive at the Fulfillment Centers they are not stored by product-type. The same types of products are in different places throughout the warehouse. For instance, you’ll see skateboards right next to dog food.
“We don’t keep like-items together for the most part,” said Andrew Lee, the General Manager for the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Republic. “We use the size as a factor as to where we’re going to put it.”
The reason they can do that is because computers keep track of every single item in the building and there are over 190 picker machines roaming the aisles picking up items and taking them to be boxed up and sent on their way.
And it’s because of that modern technology and a trained workforce that Amazon can receive that product and get it out for delivery in just over a half-hour.
“The training is crucial,” Lee said. “So being here in Republic and having a great workforce in the Springfield-surrounding area to get those products out, is important. It really is driven by the people.”
Parson did enter the Amazon workforce briefly as he was enlisted to load an item into a package for delivery.
“I just hope somebody gets it,” he said with a laugh. “I think when you see the fail-safe system they face in place they know you’re not going to mess it up too bad.”
But certainly working in this monolith of activity with a deadline of getting a product in-and-out every half-hour can be a little intimidating.
“Coming to Amazon is a different language,” Baltes said. “That can be great for you or something a little challenging. You’re going to have to unlearn some things you’ve learned before in your career to be honest. But once you get it and understand it, it’s a great opportunity to advance.”
“The building shrinks,” added Shelby Benn, an Area Manager who moved to Republic’s Amazon from Chicago. “What I mean is on the first day it might be 1.4 million square-feet but after you start working it shrinks to where you think it’s a pretty small building. The building shrinks and the people grow.”
The workforce includes local residents and some who came from out-of-town like another Area Manager Carrie Solomon.
“It’s a very, very welcoming community,” she said. “I’m just so glad that I moved from Kansas City to down here. I didn’t even know where Republic was but from getting my car worked on to going to the doctor it’s been a very embracing and inclusive environment.”
Amazon is trying to attract more people by offering to pay full college tuition for its front-line employees who have been with the company at least three months. It’s part of their $1.2 billion effort to expand education and skills training for its U.S. workforce.
Parson pointed out that Amazon is just the type of company he’s looking for in his efforts to expand Missouri’s job profile nationwide.
“We’re really starting to go to the high schools and trying to make sure school counselors and students know that their workforce of tomorrow might be right here at Amazon,” he said. “They may be in a manufacturing-type setting that’s got good-paying jobs with good benefits and there’s nothing wrong with that. Partnering with these corporations and keeping infrastructure and workforce development at the forefront is how we’re going to build the future of this state.”
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