Amazon hiring for Ruskin facility, many workers expected to come from Manatee County

jajones1@bradenton.comJune 15, 2014 

RUSKIN -- At Mango Jo's, a tavern that prides itself on its friendly atmosphere, liquor and games, there is growing excitement over the massive Amazon fulfillment center being built nearby.

"It's going up a lot faster than I thought. A couple of our regulars applied for jobs there. I think it will be good for bringing in jobs and will benefit the area," bartender Tonya Miller said.

That's a view shared by many in Manatee County -- especially when you consider that Amazon's 1 million-square-foot distribution center is even closer to Bradenton than it is to Tampa.

"I imagine a good number of employees will come from Manatee County," said Sharon Hilstrom, president and CEO of Manatee Economic Development Corp. listed at least two dozen positions last week, including information technology, area manager, medical representative, human resources and control systems manager.

Amazon announced in October that it would be offering more than 1,000 full-time jobs with comprehensive benefits at its Ruskin facility.

Those jobs pay on average 30 percent more than traditional retail jobs, not counting stock grants that full-time employees receive, according to Amazon. Benefits include health care starting on day one and a 401(k) program.

Amazon also offers full-time employees Career Choice, where the company pre-pays up to 95 percent of tuition for courses related to in-demand fields.

Amazon could be the magnet that attracts other distribution centers to the area just west of Interstate 75 and north of State Road 674, Hilstrom said. The Amazon site hummed with construction activity last week. The exterior walls and roof of the facility were recently completed. That much work would be considered fast-tracking for any project that broke ground in November.

The Ruskin facility will distribute books, electronics and consumer goods. A companion facility being built in Lakeland will handle larger items, such as kayaks and televisions. The Lakeland facility is now hiring for more than 500 positions.

"We have not announced a construction or opening timeline for the fulfillment centers, but they are moving quickly. Stay tuned," Amazon spokeswoman Nina Lindsey said in an email.

Homes going slower

Manatee County developer Pat Neal has submitted an application to Manatee County government to build 1,999 residential units, 40,000 square feet of commercial space and 20,000 square feet of office space on a 1,200-acre parcel.

Neal's property, called The Villages of Amazon South, is west of U.S. 301 and north of Moccasin Wallow Road -- just a skip and jump to the Amazon distribution center.

Neal is frustrated that he can't move faster on the project, but his company continues to work with the county.

"We're still struggling," Neal said. "We are working through it, hoping we can work to resolution."

A sticking point has been extension of sewer services to the Villages of Amazon South location.

In April, the county announced it had reached an agreement that allows Neal to pay to connect to an existing sewer line that serves the Parrish area.

But county legal staff, planners and consultants are continuing to work on finalizing the build-out costs for infrastructure in the Parrish area. Once those costs are determined, builders in the area would be required to pay impact fees for the infrastructure costs.

The goal is to take Neal's project to the Manatee Planning Commission in August, and the Manatee County Commission in September for public hearings, said Margaret Tusing, principal county planner for the project.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.

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