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Amazon triples Boxwood hiring target

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Workers collect incoming products for the Amazon Boxwood facility on Sept. 21. The e-commerce giant is now the fourth largest employer in Delaware. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

NEWPORT – Less than six months after opening its crown jewel robotics-assisted sortation center at the former General Motors Boxwood plant, Amazon has already more than tripled its original 1,000-employee hiring target, officials said.

While more than 3,000 people have been hired at the facility known to the e-commerce giant as MTN1, Amazon is rapidly hiring at a variety of established and new facilities as well.

More than 1,000 people are already working at the new ILG1 fulfillment center in Bear. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

More than 1,000 people have already been hired to work at ILG1, a bulk-item fulfillment center off U.S. Route 13 near Bear that opened just before the end of last year, said Steve Kelly, an Amazon spokesman. Nearly 350 people work at DGI3, a large delivery station that sits adjacent to Boxwood’s MTN1, and dozens are actively working out of a Seaford delivery station that is slowly coming online in the southern end of the state. Those new facilities add to the more than 3,000 working at fulfillment centers in Middletown and New Castle.

Now with more than 7,000 employees in the state, Amazon has jumped to become Delaware’s fourth largest employer behind only the state government, ChristianaCare, and JPMorgan Chase. It represents a remarkable period of growth for the company in the First State, pushing it from the ninth largest employer to the fourth in one year, according to Delaware Business Times research. It is set to grow further as a planned delivery station in Delaware City eventually comes online too.

The new Amazon Boxwood facility features four floors of robot-assisted storage that helps the company store and retrieve more items than ever before. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

Kelly said MTN1 Boxwood is the only facility currently actively hiring, but the company did not have a specific headcount target to achieve. Some other similar facilities around the country employ about 3,000 people, although one in Robbinsville, N.J., employed about 4,500 in 2020, according to local officials.

Amazon was awarded $3 million by the state via its taxpayer-backed Strategic Fund to create 1,000 jobs within three years of the Boxwood plant’s opening. At a Council of Development Finance hearing on the grant, the trillion-dollar company was criticized for its receipt of public funds and its non-union labor.

The lack of bargained labor hasn’t stopped thousands from joining the company in recent months though, likely spurred in part by its $3,000 sign-on bonus for those who stay at least 90 days and lower minimum experience and education requirements. As sales for Amazon boomed through the pandemic and shipments grew, it raised its minimum wage to a national average of $18 an hour, nearly double the $9.25 federal minimum.

This week, Amazon added to its benefit offerings for employees by enhancing a full college tuition reimbursement program, signing partnerships with University of Delaware, Wilmington University, and Delaware Technical Community College, among 137 other colleges nationwide. After just 90 days on the job, employees can pursue a Bachelor’s degree or earn industry certifications while working for Amazon through its Career Choice program. More than 50,000 company employees took advantage of the existing program.

Linda Hill, owner of MDD3 Logistics LLC, helps a driver pack his van outside of the DGI3 Amazon delivery center in Newport. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

“We strive every day to be Earth’s best employer. This means we recruit in areas where our facilities are located, like we did in Wilmington and Seaford. And we also offer competitive compensation packages that generally include a national starting wage of around $18 per hour, flexible scheduling, comprehensive health care, paid leave, and retirement benefits, and access to our Career Choice program,” Kelly told DBT.

While Gov. John Carney said shortly after the Strategic Fund grant approval that he expected employment to grow at Boxwood above the promised 1,000 jobs, he told DBT that he was impressed by the pace of the company’s growth, assisted in part by the pandemic’s effects.

“It’s a really good thing in our efforts to move individuals who aren’t participating in the economy – they’re not employed, they’re underemployed, they’re coming back from incarceration – and now there are job opportunities,” he said.

But at the same time, the governor was also concerned about the wage inflation that was being driven in part by Amazon, however, and he noted that he was both hearing about the issue from state employers and seeing it within the state government.

“One of the most important pieces of my recommended budget was significant merit pay increases, mostly at the bottom level of the median salary among state employees, because they’re leaving our employment to go work for Amazon and these other places,” he said. “I’ve not seen this kind of upward pressure on wages in my 30 years in government.”

“So, it creates real challenges, but it’s way better than the opposite of not having enough jobs for folks,” he added.

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