The hiring process won’t start until next year at the forthcoming Amazon fulfillment center in Kernersville, though the online retailing giant has already confirmed its plan to have 1,000 full-time employees at the 1 million-square-foot center.

However, an Amazon Operations official stressed that when the hiring does begin in 2020, it will be as quick and efficient as the company’s noted supply-chain network.

The center will be near Old Greensboro Road in the Guilford County part of Kernersville. Amazon signed a 40-year lease with HPC Seefried, an Atlanta-based real estate developer on July 26.

The process will take weeks for the initial hires, with the full workforce expected to be in place within several months after operations begin, said Rachael Lighty, regional manager of external communications for Amazon Operations.

Lighty said the 10-hours-a-day work shifts will operate on a four-days-on, three-days-off schedule. Although the center will operate around the clock, two hours for maintenance is built into the daily schedule.

“There will be about 200 employees on-site at any given time, seven days a week,” she said.

Lighty said the company purposefully withholds opening day information until it is within weeks of beginning operation.

The company plans to work with local groups, such as the United Way and Winston-Salem Urban League, in the hiring process, holding job fairs and advertising Amazon’s hiring procedures, along with sending applicants to www.amazon delivers.jobs.

“Typically with fulfillment centers, we will interview within weeks of the planned opening,” Lighty said. “Job offers will come quickly once we identify qualified candidates.”

She said Amazon will bring in a small group of employees from other fulfillment centers for about two weeks to help train the initial wave of hires.

“Our first priority will be identifying senior leadership for the center,” Lighty said. “The vast majority of the employees will be local hires. We will give current employees, particularly those who are coming in to help with the training, the opportunity to transition to the Kernersville center, but we don’t anticipate there being that many.”

John H. Boyd, a national site-selection expert based in New Jersey, has projected that the Kernersville fulfillment center could represent a $150 million capital investment.

The Kernersville center will be similar to the one Amazon opened in Kannapolis in July 2018 in that both will primarily handle bulky items that are 18 inches and larger. Those items can include items as varied as diaper boxes, kayaks and furniture.

Lighty said that because the Kernersville fulfillment center’s work will be very similar to the Kannapolis center’s, local residents could apply for openings in Kannapolis to get an earlier exposure to the job demands and then apply for a transfer back here.

Lighty said the job training will be handled at the fulfillment center with the assistance of local community colleges.

Once the equipment is in the center, employees will be tasked with handling inventory “to the point it is available to go live on our website for prepping, packaging and out the door,” Lighty said.

Effect on delivery?

Triad consumers may not benefit from same-day delivery services — at least at first — from having the Amazon fulfillment center in their backyard.

However, it likely will increase the odds of receiving a delivery within 24 hours, depending on the products being purchased and what kind of goods the center will keep in constant inventory.

Lighty said that consumer demand and Amazon’s algorithm network help dictate where products are inventoried. Oftentimes, products are fulfilled at the site closest to the manufacturing and production sites of suppliers.

“Each fulfillment center is different in terms of buyer trends and unique product offerings,” Lighty said. “It’s certainly possible that while the Kernersville center will focus on products for delivery in North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina, it will have the ability to ship products around the world.”

The Kernersville fulfillment center is near a 483,000-square-foot FedEx Ground center that opened in 2011 and expanded in 2013. It’s also within 7 miles of FedEx’s sorting hub at Piedmont Triad International Airport.

A December 2016 study of Amazon’s fulfillment centers by economists from Cornell, Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State universities determined that Amazon had more than doubled the number of fulfillment centers since 2013 in part “to shorten the outbound shipping distance that is handled by one of the contracted shipping companies.”

Lighty said local small and midsize businesses can benefit from the Kernersville center in terms of enhanced supplier and inventory relationships with Amazon through its Fulfillment by Amazon program.

“There are more than 53,000 authors, sellers and developers in North Carolina growing their businesses and reaching new customers on Amazon products and services,” she said.

“We expect to add to those numbers each time we open a fulfillment or sorting center.”

Job benefits

Amazon said it expects to be an employer of choice in a crowded logistics marketplace because it offers potential full-time, part-time and seasonal employees more than just a starting wage of $15 an hour that began in November 2018.

Benefits, including health insurance and a 50% company match on 401(k) employee contributions, begin on an employee’s first day of work.

Maternity and family leave benefits offer up to 20 weeks of paid leave, a flexible “ramp back” program. A “leave share” program allows employees the ability to share their paid leave with their spouse or partner.

Its career choice program prepays 95% of tuition for employees to go back to school in fields that are in high demand, regardless of whether those skills are relevant to jobs at Amazon. There are career skill enhancement programs.

“Amazon is a big believer in promoting from within and helping employees gain the skills they need to do that,” Lighty said.

Several employment studies have shown that working at an Amazon fulfillment center is not for everyone.

For example, Amazon makes it clear that the job can be taxing, particularly during the peak holiday shipping season. Workers can walk 7 to 12 miles during a shift. Most employees must be able to lift up to 49 pounds.

Corporate taxes

The main reason why Kernersville may be getting a full-size Amazon fulfillment center is as much about the online retail giant conceding on a state sales tax dispute in 2013 as geography and retail trends.

Before 2013, Amazon’s fulfillment center strategy was to place the center’s in communities with low county and state sales tax rates, such as Delaware, New Hampshire and Nevada, that were next to large metropolitan areas, such as California and New York.

The reasoning was that federal law required Amazon to collect sales tax on the customer’s behalf where it had a physical presence, such as a fulfillment center. Operating out of states with lower sales taxes shaved the overall costs for some consumers.

As Amazon began charging the sales tax to consumers, it also launched its major surge in fulfillment and other centers that made the Prime Now center concept more economically viable.

“As Amazon grew in scale, the network of fulfillment centers expanded, presumably to be closer to population hubs despite sales tax implications and higher fixed costs of warehousing in densely populated states,” according to the economists’ study.

The bulk of Amazon’s first wave of new fulfillment centers from 2014 to 2017 went into California, Tennessee and Virginia. In 2018, it entered North Carolina and expanded in Georgia, Illinois and Ohio.

By the start of 2018, it had 102 fulfillment centers in 28 states with the average distance between facilities being 116 miles. There are plans to build 35 more fulfillment centers and 10 other facilities, according to MWPVL International, a supply chain and logistics consulting company based in Montreal West, Quebec.

Another potential factor in making North Carolina more attractive to Amazon: In 2013, the state had a 6.9% corporate tax rate.

In 2017, the Republican-controlled state legislature reduced the rate to 3% — the lowest in the country for states that have a corporate tax rate. There is the potential for the rate to drop to 2.5% in 2019.

However, the result has led to a $600 million annual reduction in corporate tax dollars paid to North Carolina.

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Richard Craver is a reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal. Contact him at rcraver@wsjournal.com or 336-727-7376.