Godzilla needs distribution hubs.
As the behemoth seller of practically everything pursues next-day delivery as the norm for its spiraling Amazon Prime customer base, Amazon.com Inc. will need places to store, sort and ship all that stuff.
And that in turn should deliver hundreds of new jobs to the Triad. As BH Media’s Richard Craver reports, Amazon appears to be planning two Triad distribution centers, both in Guilford County.
Under a lease completed on July 26, the first would be located at a Kernersville industrial site and could cover as much as 1 million square feet. The second will be on 16.64 acres in Piedmont Corporate Park. The property, officially leased on April 16, falls within High Point’s city limits but has a Colfax address.
This area’s rail and road networks and Piedmont Triad International Airport probably helped its case. But the Triad also was in the right place at the right time. To ensure light-speed shipping Amazon needs a seamless and efficient chain of regional distribution centers. And this area represented a gap that needed filling. Keith Debbage, a professor of geography and sustainable tourism and hospitality at UNCG, noted a need for Amazon “to plug holes in its national network.”
“North Carolina has a more dispersed urban network relative to other Southern states, which made solving our distribution network more challenging,” Debbage told BH Media.
The Triad Business Park location alone could amount to as much as a $150 million capital investment and could employ as many as 953 people, with expected salaries of between $25,000 and $45,000 a year. But this work isn’t for anyone. The shifts may be as long as 12 hours and require some heavy lifting, as well as stamina. A single workday could involve as many as 12 miles of walking. HQ 2 this isn’t.
Even so, it’s good work, with a future. Though nothing is a given in an economy that often evolves faster than we keep up, with changing technology and consumer habits, Amazon has clout and staying power. Its lease for the Kernersville site is up to 40 years. The lease for the High Point-Colfax site is 10 years, with an option of up to 35 years.
We were similarly encouraged when Publix Super Markets Inc. chose a site in eastern Guilford County for a distribution center in 2018. Built on 350 acres on the edge of Greensboro’s city limits, that 1.8 million-square-foot facility was especially important to the Triad after a disappointing bid for a Toyota-Mazda auto plant fell short. Salaries are expected to average a good but not great $45,000 a year, with good benefits and working conditions.
The upshot of this good news is precious jobs from strong, reputable companies that pay a good living. But an in age of increasing automation, they also call for fewer workers.
If distribution centers are the potatoes, the kind of high-end jobs that are the meat on our economic menu are still fewer and farther between. While a game-changer like Toyota-Mazda eventually could and should choose the Triad, this area can do more to nurture startups and small businesses, especially in innovation and technology.
Don’t get us wrong; we love potatoes. But we wouldn’t mind a little steak to go along with them.