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Amazon center in El Paso is official
Vic Kolenc El Paso Times USA TODAY NETWORK – TEXAS

For weeks, El Paso government leaders said they knew nothing about the proposed Amazon project. And Amazon officials declined to say if the company planned to put a fulfillment center here.

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, who in June told the El Paso Times he knew nothing about an Amazon project, on Wednesday, during a virtual news conference, called Amazon “a beacon of light” for El Paso, and said the project validates that El Paso is a great community with a strong economy.

Jon Barela, chief executive officer of the Borderplex Alliance, the regional economic development organization

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that helped land the project, called Amazon a “transformational company” that brings job opportunities to El Paso at a time they are needed because of the COVID-19 pandemic..

Amazon doesn’t plan to seek tax breaks for the project, Barela said.

“However, there are ongoing discussions about other forms of support for the company,” Barela said. He did not say what other support may be provided.

El Paso adds to Amazon’s growing network of distribution centers

Alicia Boler Davis, Amazon’s vice president of global customer fulfillment, said in a statement that Amazon officials are excited to be expanding the company’s distribution network in El Paso.

“We’re grateful for the strong support we’ve received from local and state leaders,” Boler said.

Amazon looks at a variety of factors when looking for a fulfillment center, including customer demand, a dedicated workforce, and great local support, and those were found in El Paso, according to an Amazon statement.

No Amazon officials took part in the Borderplex Alliance’s virtual news conference.

Amazon operates about 175 fulfillment centers of varying sizes in the world, including 110 in North America, according to company information.

The El Paso facility will speed up Amazon deliveries in the El Paso region, but it also will ship items to other areas of the country, a company statement reported.

El Paso facility smaller than projected in developer’s document

In the planned, El Paso fulfillment center, employees will work alongside Amazon robotics to pick, pack and ship small items — including books, electronics, and toys — to its online customers, the company’s statement reported.

The size of the facility is much smaller than the 2.6 million square-foot center described in a document filed with a Texas agency by Hillwood, a large Dallas real estate company developing the site for Amazon.

That document, which kept Amazon’s name secret, also listed the cost of the project at $191.7 million.

The Borderplex’s Barela said during the virtual news conference that the size of the center is smaller than some of Amazon’s distribution centers, but, he said, it’s still a massive project. And the facility “has potential to grow down the road,” he said.

No project cost estimates were released, but Barela said the Amazon project will be one of the area’s largest construction projects since Union Pacific Railroad built its huge rail facility in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, near El Paso’s West Side. That facility, which opened in 2014, cost $400 million, El Paso Times archives show.

El Paso’s Amazon HQ2 proposal began hunt for fulfillment center

The hunt for the Amazon distribution center began almost three years ago, when the city of El Paso and Borderplex sent a 200-page proposal for Amazon’s second headquarters location, dubbed HQ2, Barela said.

El Paso lost that bid, but the proposal highlighted information about the El Paso area, including its strategic location and transportation links, that was aimed at getting a fulfillment center, Barela said. And it got Amazon officials talking to El Paso-area officials, Barela said.

The headquarter’s proposal also highlighted this area’s young, trained, and trainable workforce, which “I’m sure was a selling point for Amazon also,” he said.

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, who in June also told the El Paso Times he knew nothing about an Amazon project, said Amazon selected El Paso because of its location next to New Mexico and Mexico, and its “advanced logistics ecosystem.”

“The new facility will be a win for El Paso small businesses as businesses ranging from retail to hospitality to manufacturing reap the positive benefits (of the Amazon facility) for years to come,” Margo said.

“Amazon is a proven, valuable community partner” through several of its programs, he said.

Some Amazon fulfillment center workers have criticized the company’s handling of worker safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, and some employees complained about stressful working conditions even before the pandemic, according to published reports.

The hiring process for the El Paso center is expected to begin in about eight weeks, according to an Amazon statement. More information: amazon. com/jobsnow Vic Kolenc may be reached at 546-6421; vkolenc@elpasotimes.com; @vickolenc on Twitter.