Amazon hits construction milestones at Ruskin facility

The new Amazon distribution center, which is under construction in Ruskin, will pick, pack and ship orders worldwide.

Photo by MICHAEL BLITCH | Special to the Times

The new Amazon distribution center, which is under construction in Ruskin, will pick, pack and ship orders worldwide.

TAMPA — Amazon has finished installing the exterior walls and roof of its distribution center under construction in Ruskin, two milestones along the way to completing the 1.1 million-square-foot facility, company officials said Tuesday.

No opening date has been announced, but Amazon spokeswoman Nina Lindsey said the project is "moving quickly.''

The world's largest online retailer is hiring more than 1,000 full-time associates for its fulfillment center in Ruskin, where orders will be picked, packed and shipped. Another warehouse under construction in Lakeland will hire hundreds, said Lindsey, who was in Tampa updating the media on the projects.

Seattle-based Amazon began hiring this month and will accelerate the process a few months closer to the centers' opening dates, expected around the end of the year. A to-be-determined number of part-time employees will be hired to handle temporary work during peak times.

Full-time employees will receive health benefits and company stock awards starting from their first day on the job. After a year of employment, they will be eligible for the Career Choice Program, in which Amazon will prepay 95 percent of tuition for courses related to in-demand fields.

"We're excited about bringing more than 1,000 jobs and being part of the local community,'' Lindsey said. "We expect to find a great work force here.''

Amazon plans to have job fairs to recruit employees, but none have been scheduled. Full-time employees will work four, 10-hour shifts a week.

While few details about Florida's first fulfillment centers have been announced, they will have the latest technology "homegrown by Amazonians'' over the past 19 years, Lindsey said. That includes SLAM machines that weigh and measure each package before shipping to ensure its contents match the order.

The Ruskin center, near Interstate 75 and State Road 674, will handle smaller products, such as CDs and books. The Lakeland center at 1760 County Line Road will handle larger goods, such as outdoor grills and kayaks.

Hillsborough County's top building official has said the Ruskin facility will eventually use Amazon's Kiva robots to retrieve items from shelves. Amazon officials haven't confirmed the robots but said 1,000 are in use at three fulfillment centers nationwide.

The fulfillment centers will process orders headed to customers worldwide, not just Florida. Orders will be shipped through the U.S. Postal Service, United Parcel Service and FedEx.

Amazon hits construction milestones at Ruskin facility 05/13/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 8:07pm]

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