Amazon dramatically increased its footprint in Central Florida on Monday by confirming that it will hire 2,000 people at its distribution centers in Ruskin and Lakeland, nearly doubling its workforce as it continues to reshape the way people shop.
The online retailer already employs more than 2,000 people in Ruskin and Lakeland, the only distribution centers the company currently operates in Florida. Millions of packages have been sent from both centers as Amazon has prepared for expansion, which included launching a same-day shipping service in the Tampa Bay area in May.
The addition of 2,000 jobs — which the company says will pay about 30 percent more than the average retail salary — comes as the Tampa Bay area continues to struggle to its feet economically. Though unemployment rates have declined, many of the new jobs have been low-paying.
Gov. Rick Scott's office announced the new jobs in a news release Monday morning, and state and local officials quickly touted it as evidence of the Tampa Bay area's recovery.
"Amazon's decision to locate in Florida was a major win for our economy, and these additional 2,000 jobs further demonstrate the strength of Florida's workforce and business climate," said Bill Johnson, Florida secretary of commerce and president of Enterprise Florida. "These additional jobs in Ruskin and Lakeland are incredibly important for those regions as well as the state overall."
"Amazon's rapid growth at its Ruskin distribution center is another indicator of Hillsborough County's desirability as a business destination for some of the top brands in the world," said Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.
Demand for the new positions will be high.
Just last week, more than 1,400 people applied for jobs at Amazon through a job fair hosted by the Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women, said executive director Ann Madsen. It was the second time in a year that the Centre had hosted a job fair with Amazon.
Amazon will host another job fair on Aug. 28 at Hillsborough Community College's South Shore Campus in the new science building from 8:30 a.m. to noon and from 3 to 6 p.m. Interested applicants can apply on site.
The company finished construction on the 1.1 million-square-foot fulfillment center in Ruskin in September and hired more than 1,000 workers to run it. The $200 million facility is near Interstate 75 and State Road 674 in southern Hillsborough County. The center is 10 times the size of the average Home Depot.
In May, Amazon launched a same-day delivery service for customers living in the Tampa Bay region and 13 other metro areas nationwide. The fulfillment centers in Ruskin and Lakeland make the quick delivery possible. The Ruskin facility ships smaller items such as toys, books and CDs. The Lakeland fulfillment center ships larger orders such as televisions and kayaks.
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The jobs available include picking, packing and shipping customer orders. All Amazon employees are eligible for benefits such as health insurance, a 401(k) program with a 50 percent match, bonuses and stock rewards the day they start working. Amazon will also prepay 95 percent of tuition for courses related to in-demand career fields, regardless if the field is relevant to jobs at Amazon.
The Hillsborough County Commission approved $6.4 million in property tax breaks over seven years for Amazon in 2013. The county also offered another $1.1 million to attract high-wage jobs in a partnership with the state.
Contact Justine Griffin at email@example.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.