By Associated Press - Friday, May 7, 2021

POOLER, Ga. (AP) - Amazon announced Friday it will open a $260 million fulfillment center near Savannah, where the online retailer plans to hire 1,000 full-time workers.

The Seattle-based online retail and internet service titan said early construction has already started on a facility that will cover 640,000 square feet (60,000 square meters) and is expected to open next year. Workers will pick, pack and ship orders such as books, toys and small household goods. The company says employees will work alongside robots.

Wages for full-time employees will start at $15 an hour, Amazon spokesperson Ashley Lansdale said.

“The economic impact is enormous,” Savannah Mayor Van Jones said, “and Amazon’s $15 per hour minimum wage falls in line with what we aspire the minimum wage to be in our community.”

Amazon already employs more than 21,000 workers across Georgia, including at a large fulfillment center in Stone Mountain that opened last year. The company’s new facility will be close to the Port of Savannah, the nation’s fourth-busiest seaport for containerized cargo such as retail goods.

The Amazon parcel is being carved out from a former megasite that was originally aimed at attracting one large industry to the intersection of Interstates 95 and 16. State and local leaders gave up on that plan after being repeatedly jilted and agreed to carve up the land. What is now Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems built a $325 million gas turbine plant that opened in 2011 and now employs more than 300 people.

Georgia will give Amazon a $3.1 million grant to offset road costs. Amazon could claim various tax breaks, including an income tax credit allowing it to annually deduct $3,500 per job from state income taxes, up to $17.5 million over five years, as long as workers make at least $28,000 per year. If Amazon doesn’t incur enough state income tax liability to claim all the grants, the state would instead pay Amazon cash from workers’ state income tax withholdings.

The company will also be eligible for sales tax breaks on equipment purchases. Chatham County could also give property tax breaks.

Trip Tollison, president and CEO of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, told the Savannah Morning News that Amazon first approached local officials about eight months ago.

Amazon also announced a similar facility in Shreveport, Louisiana on Friday.

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