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Amazon confirms fulfillment centers in Ruskin, Lakeland

TAMPA — Online retailer Amazon confirmed Tuesday that it will open a 1-million-square-foot distribution center in Hillsborough County and announced plans for a second, similar warehouse about an hour away in Polk County.

The announcement came nearly two weeks after Hillsborough officials said the retailer had completed a real estate deal for a center in Ruskin, and it ended speculation about whether Amazon wanted two facilities so close to each other.

Amazon said the centers will process different kinds of orders from customers.

The Ruskin center will pick, pack and ship small items, including books, electronics and consumer goods. A center to be located on Lakeland will ship large goods such as kayaks and televisions.

Seattle-based Amazon said it would create more than 1,000 full-time jobs at the centers with health care, stock awards and other benefits. It didn't say when the distribution centers would open or when they would start hiring.

Site work has already begun on the Hillsborough location at Interstate 75 and State Road 674, and at the Lakeland location at 1760 County Line Road.

"We appreciate the state, city and county officials who have worked with us to bring these fulfillment centers to Florida,'' said a statement from Mike Roth, Amazon's vice president of North America operations. "We're excited to join the community, bringing great jobs and investment to the area."

Gov. Rick Scott announced in June that Amazon would invest $300 million in new warehouses and hire 3,000 people as part of a deal that would eventually require Amazon to charge Florida customers sales tax on purchases. Currently, those taxes are not collected on purchases because Amazon doesn't have a physical presence in the state.

But the issue of online sales taxes is being debated in other states and could be resolved nationally by Congress or courts.

In a statement Tuesday, Scott applauded Amazon for choosing Florida for its new warehouses, known as fulfillment centers.

"I would like to thank Amazon for recognizing that Florida's business-friendly environment we've helped create is the perfect place for their latest expansion," he said.

Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman said the centers combined would employ more than 1,000 full-time workers but didn't have an exact figure. Amazon prefers to hire full-time workers but may employ part-timers who request it, she said.

Thousands more could work at the centers as seasonal employees to handle the holiday shopping rush.

Both Hillsborough and Polk counties lured Amazon with financial incentives. Hillsborough approved $6.4 million in property tax breaks over seven years and $1.1 million in payments to Amazon for bringing 375 above-average paying jobs. Polk okayed a $4.5 million package that would require Amazon to create at least 100 high-paying jobs and make a minimum investment of $10 million.

Founded by Jeff Bezos, Amazon is expected to post $75 billion in revenue this year — but not a lot of profit.

Despite its stock reaching a record high, Amazon lost money last year. Analysts expect another loss when the company releases third-quarter results Thursday.

By contrast, McDonald's restaurants this week reported a $1.52 billion profit for the quarter.

Information from the New York Times supplemented this report.

Amazon confirms fulfillment centers in Ruskin, Lakeland 10/22/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 8:54pm]
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