Amazon Boxwood plant nears opening
NEWPORT – Amazon’s Boxwood Road plant has sprung up over the past year to loom over the nearby Route 141, and it will soon begin operations with hundreds of employees, a company official said.
The e-commerce giant has already hired about 500 workers for the Boxwood plant, with aims to hire another 500 before the end of the year, said Will Carney, the general manager of the new facility. That hiring push would put Amazon well ahead of its deadline to create 1,000 jobs within three years of the plant’s opening in order to receive a $3 million taxpayer-backed grant incentive approved in 2020.
While Amazon will only commit to a “late summer/early fall” launch of the facility, Carney conceded that the plant was closer to launching than not. On Monday, hundreds of cars were in the employee parking lot with heavy activity in and around the plant.
Carney has worked for Amazon for six years with stints in several states, but he most recently ran Amazon’s 1.7 million-square-foot fulfillment center in West Deptford, N.J. That facility employs thousands and includes the use of robotics on its second-floor mezzanine.
The next-generation Boxwood plant will be Delaware’s largest building, measuring more that 3.7 million square feet, and the first Amazon facility here to include heavy use of robotics in its work.
With five floors of storage and operation, Carney explained that inbound and outbound products will work in different floors and spaces. A series of conveyors will help move the products and packages quickly between the floors.
“We have an Amazon Robotics floor, so you can picture an automated bot that brings pods to our stowers and pickers, which is a huge safety win for our associates, because they no longer have to do the whole walking or moving across the floor,” he said.
The Boxwood facility lies near the top of Amazon’s supply chain, with packages heading to sortation centers and then last-mile delivery stations – three of which have been opened or planned in Delaware so far, including at the rear of the Boxwood site – before they end up on customers’ doorsteps.
“[Boxwood] is where a lot of the inventory that we hold [is stored]; everything from AirPods to cat food to books, of course,” Carney said, noting those products could be sent “next door in Wilmington or across the country to California.”
While Amazon has hosted at least two job fairs in Wilmington in recent weeks for the Boxwood plant, Carney said that they will continue to host more and advertise through Amazon’s career site for positions. Entry-level associates are currently hired at a base of $16 an hour with full medical and dental benefits, and Amazon is offering a $3,000 sign-up bonus right now for those who stay at least six months. Emphasizing the ability to grow in the company as well, Carney noted that two of the senior-level managers at the Boxwood plant started as hourly associates.
In a show of goodwill to the local community, a group of Amazon’s already hired Boxwood employees spent Monday morning cleaning and beautifying Kirkwood Park on the city’s east side. Carney said they had also already spent time volunteering at the Delaware Humane Association and would be making more contributions.
“Being a local employer means getting involved in the community, which is why we’re out here today and doing five other community service activities over the course of this week,” he said.
The nearing official opening of Amazon’s crown jewel facility in Delaware comes on the tails of its latest annual investment report, which shows that it invested more than $4 billion in the state in the decade from 2010 to 2020 between infrastructure and compensation to more than 4,500 full-time or part-time employees.
Amazon also estimated that it has contributed $3 billion to Delaware’s gross domestic product, supported more than 5,000 indirect jobs, and helped market more than 6,500 small and medium business sellers and independent authors.
That impact study predates Amazon’s announced fulfillment center near Bear as well as last-mile delivery centers in Newport and Seaford, meaning the company’s investment will likely be far greater. It has been aided by several million in taxpayer-backed capital investment and job creation grants for both its Boxwood and Middletown plants though.