Amazon’s first fulfillment center in Missouri, planned for St. Peters and expected to create more than 1,500 jobs, is expected to benefit the entire St. Louis region.
That’s according to St. Charles County and state officials gathered at a news conference on March 7 to discuss the announcement that a new 855,080-square-foot center to house the Amazon facility will be built at Duke Realty’s Premier 370 Business Park along Route 370 in St. Peters.
St. Peters Mayor Len Pagano said he was “ecstatic” about the announcement saying that Amazon was attracted to the city because it has an amazing quality of life, great schools, quality housing and a world-class workforce.
County Executive Steve Ehlmann agreed with Pagano that the announcement heralded a great day for St. Peters and the entire region.
“This facility is going to be a two-minute drive from a Missouri River bridge. So this is not just going to benefit potential employees in St. Charles County but in St. Louis County, St. Louis city, the entire region,” Ehlmann said.
Ehlmann and city officials say they expect some workers at the facility will be willing to drive 45 minutes or more to work at Amazon.
About 12 years ago, when Ehlmann and Pagano were discussing the business park, Ehlmann said he said to Pagano that he hoped St. Peters wasn’t going to simply move a lot of retail development into the business park. He said Pagano guaranteed that the city was not going to do that.
“We are going to look for real companies that create real jobs, we’re not just [going to] move jobs from one part of the region to the other,” Ehlmann said Pagano told him. “I think that is very, very important for people to understand that this is a situation where we’re bringing new jobs to the region and everybody is going to profit.”
A groundbreaking for the center could be as early as March 19, Pagano said.
The building is expected to be finished and operational by May 1, 2019, said Matthew C. Hrubes, vice president of leasing and development for Duke Realty. City officials noted that the Amazon facility may be larger than advertised because it will have two floors – maybe with as much as 2.4 million square feet.
Employees will work alongside robotics to pick, pack and ship small items, such as books, electronics and toys, to customers. According to an Amazon news release, full-time employees in the company receive competitive hourly wages and comprehensive benefits including health and disability insurance, and 401[k] and company stock participation from day one. The company also offers generous paid leave.
“We’re excited to continue growing our team with our first, state-of-the-art fulfillment center in Missouri,” Sanjay Shah, Amazon’s vice president of North America Customer Fulfillment, said in a statement. “Our ability to expand in Missouri is the result of two things: incredible customers and an outstanding workforce. Amazon is committed to providing great opportunities for employment and creating a positive economic impact for the region.”
Those new employees may not be buying new houses in St. Peters because the city now has little land available for new single-family housing developments. However, Pagano said the city is looking into multi-family developments and that existing homes sell quickly in the city.
“We’ve got some more land elsewhere in the county,” Ehlmann said slyly at the press conference, which drew laughter because the county has been the leading location for single-family home development in the region for a number of years.
Amazon officials were not present at the news conference. Instead, they released a written news release announcing the center early in the morning on March 7.
“They were impressed with the Missouri story, too,” said Rob Nixon, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, who spoke at the news conference. “And they are telling us that very fact by this decision today.”
Pagano thanked the members of a team that worked on attracting Amazon, including the county’s Economic Development Council, Duke Realty, Ameren and other groups such as the Missouri Partnership and the St. Louis Regional Chamber.
Some, but not all, of the incentives offered to attract Amazon were discussed; some are still months away from being finalized.
The St. Peters Board of Aldermen may decide at its March 8 meeting whether to issue $75 million in industrial revenue bonds to help pay for the new Amazon facility at 4000 Premier Parkway in the Premier 370 Business Park.
The business park’s current tenants include Best Buy, Reckitt Benckiser and SAIA.Earlier this year, FedEx announced it would be bringing 300 jobs to a nearly 500,000-square-foot facility to be built just down Premier Parkway from the Amazon site. Grove Collaborative, a San Francisco-based online retailer, also may be moving to the business park.
Amazon will benefit from $2.6 million in nearby road improvements that St. Charles County officials are seeking from the County Road Board, Ehlmann said.
The Road Board makes recommendations on the use of a half-cent transportation sales tax that provides local funding for road improvements. Road Board funding has been used in completing the last leg of Route 364 and Route A near a new logistics operation center near the GM plant in Wentzville.
Improvements associated with the business park include lane widening on Premier Parkway, seven traffic signals and improvements to an intersection on Route 370.
What tax incentives the city may offer will depend on negotiations over the next few months, said Cathy Pratt, St. Peters’ group manager of staff support services. The city has offered incentive packages in the past. FedEx received $5.84 million in local tax abatements over 10 years, with FedEx making payments in lieu of taxes [PILOTS] to local jurisdictions including the Fort Zumwalt School District, St. Charles County Ambulance District and others.
City Administrator Russ Batzel noted that PILOTS often are much higher than taxes on existing properties, which may only be a few hundred dollars.
Amazon could receive $7.95 million in sales tax exemptions from the state of Missouri to help support the project, said Maggie Kost, a spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Economic Development. She added that Amazon could receive $2.98 million in sales tax abatement for building materials and $100,000 from the Skilled Workforce Missouri program to fund development and operations.
While much remains to be determined, Pagano lauded the city’s “FasTrac” process that he said has been a key in speeding along economic development projects that have attracted developers. He predicted Amazon would be successful in the city.
“The last thing I want to say is ‘welcome, welcome, welcome to Amazon.’ It’s big news in this town.”