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September 17, 2020

Amazon eyes third Windsor facility

Photo | Contributed An assortment of Amazon packages.

Amazon seems to be finding a nice home in Windsor.

Not only is the e-commerce giant currently constructing its second major facility in town --  a $230 million, 823,000-square-foot  fulfillment center on former tobacco farmland at 1201 Kennedy Road and 1 Joseph Lane -- it’s planning a third major location there.

Amazon is seeking town approval to repurpose an existing 154,496-square-foot light industrial building at 100 Helmsford Way into a  “last mile” package delivery station. 

Trailer trucks transport packages to delivery stations from other Amazon fulfillment and sortation centers. The packages are unloaded into the building where they are sorted, picked and reloaded into delivery vehicles inside the building. The delivery vehicles are typically vans. 

The Helmsford Way property was built in 1994 and is currently vacant. It was most recently occupied by Arrow Recovery, a company that specialized in computer-equipment recovery.

Amazon doesn’t have plans to expand the building but it will make interior and exterior modifications to the property, according to its project application. 

Jim Burke, Windsor’s economic development director, said Amazon needs the approval from the planning and zoning commission, which is set to review the proposal at its Oct. 13 meeting.

Burke said the delivery station would employ about 40 full-time workers, not including drivers who would bring goods to and from the facility, many of whom are employed by third-party companies. 

Growing Windsor presence

The delivery facility would represent Amazon’s third major Windsor operation. 

Amazon's first 1.5 million-square-foot distribution facility at 200 Old Iron Ore Road came online in 2015.

In June the town approved a three-year tax abatement for Amazon to build a new 823,000-square-foot distribution hub at 1201 Kennedy Road and 1 Joseph Lane.Indiana developer Scannell Properties has already begun construction of the massive fulfillment center on 147 acres owned by the Thrall family farm, which is slated to be ready by next year Burke said.

A recent Hartford Business Journal analysis of Amazon’s presence in Connecticut shows that it currently occupies more than 3 million square feet in Windsor, North Haven, Cromwell, Stratford, Wallingford, Bristol, Enfield, Trumbull, Orange and at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks. It also plans to occupy another 1-plus million square feet at facilities in Windsor, Wallingford and Danbury in the next year.

Already employing thousands of workers in Connecticut, area real estate brokers say the company is eyeing additional locations in the eastern and western regions of the state as the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the online shopping boom.

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Fred Carstensen
September 17, 2020

There are obvious benefits to Amazon's continuing expansion in CT, BUT we should be alert to the reality that the vast majority of the jobs Amazon creates at these fulfillment/distribution centers are not well-paid: the logistics sector average annual wage--assuming full time employment--is less than $40,000. And many do not get full-time work because workers may be "on-call" for any given day and might be sent home when the orders for the day are done.

Over the past decade, Connecticut's economy, measured in terms of real GDP, contracted by nearly 10% before a weak recovery. Connecticut began 2020 with the WORST state economy in the nation, one of only two that was still below its 2008 peak--and our record was decidedly the worst, coming in about 6% below the 2008 figure. Connecticut had not recovered in terms of jobs as well. Our neighboring states--even Rhode Island!!--had done quite well, fully recovering and then well exceeding the previous peaks in output and employment. More important, our neighbors all showed robust adjustment to the modern data-driven, digitally dependent modern economy. Connecticut lost contact and flat-lined.

From this perspective, the growth of Amazon fulfillment centers re-enforces what appears to be the dynamic of Connecticut going in wrong direction. Our economic future ought not be in becoming the Florida of the northeast, with job growth in low-skill, low-wage logistics, tourism, hospitality, and elder care--but that is where we have been headed for more than a decade, and this story is a sharp reminder of Connecticut's economic failure. That Connecticut had perhaps the strongest economy in the nation 1997-2007, growing more than a third faster on a per capita basis that the national rate only underlines how the state has fallen--from best to worst.

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