Hamilton

1,500 new jobs anticipated as Amazon plans to set up shop in Mount Hope and Stoney Creek

Amazon Canada will be setting up shop with an 855,000 square foot fulfilment centre in Mount Hope — a facility the city says marks one of the largest local investments in terms of square footage in Hamilton's history.

Investment shows Hamilton is a top destination to 'innovate and do business:' Mayor

Amazon has announced its plans to set up a fulfilment centre and delivery station in Hamilton. (Reuters)

Amazon Canada will be setting up shop with an 855,000 square foot warehouse in Mount Hope — a facility the city says marks one of the largest local investments in terms of square footage in Hamilton's history.

A 50,000 square foot delivery centre is also planned for Stoney Creek, with the two sites bringing more than 1,500 new jobs when they're scheduled to open in 2021, according to officials.

"Today's announcement signals to the world that Hamilton remains the top destination in Ontario to grow, innovate and do business," stated Mayor Fred Eisenberger in a media release.

"I am pleased that this significant investment will create 1,500 full-time jobs for the people of Hamilton. This is the beginning of a strong partnership with Amazon Canada and I look forward to our continued collaboration in the future."

Workers at the warehouse, which will be built by the John C. Munro International Airport, will pack and ship small items including electronics and toys.

At the delivery station, items will be loaded into vehicles before being transported to customers.

Anthony Marco, president of the Hamilton and District Labour Council, said he's "critically optimistic" about the announcement, but said Amazon's jobs "come with a bit of a reputation" when it comes to concerns about working conditions and wages.

"We need to make sure that from this day … we keep a critical eye on this and ask serious questions and make sure the jobs that are coming here are decent jobs, not precarious jobs, not jobs where working conditions are taken for granted."

He also noted Amazon is "notoriously anti-union," something he suggested will make for an interesting scenario in a city that's a "notoriously union town."

Hoping Hamilton can set the benchmark

Marco was quick to point out that anything that's going to bring 1,500 jobs to the city is not a bad thing, but said officials need to work with all three levels of government to secure commitments that the money Amazon makes in Hamilton will be invested back into its workers and the city itself.

"If Hamilton can be a bit of a benchmark in making sure we are going to be thoughtful and we are going to be critical in advance then let's try and do that," he explained.

Another worry Marco shared is whether or not any incentives were offered to entice the company to build here.

Norm Schleehahn, director of economic development for the city, said no municipal incentives were offered.

An Amazon "fulfilment centre" warehouse in Peterborough, England. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

The site where Amazon will erect its warehouse is owned by the Panattoni Development Company, which negotiated the deal. Amazon will be its tenant, he said.

"I'm very excited for the tax revenue that it's going to bring to the city at a time where the city needs tax revenue," said Schleehahn, adding a global brand like Amazon will help attract other major companies to the city.

The warehouse comes after Hamilton spent roughly half a million dollars in October 2017 trying to woo Amazon with a bid for its New North American headquarters using the tagline "Welcome to Unstoppable."

The 185-page proposal for HQ2 put a heavy focus on a high quality of life for potential Amazon employees and described Hamilton "the coolest city in Canada."

'Not just something that happened overnight'

Keanin Loomis, president of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, said it's possible that bid attracted some attention to the city and acted as a catalyst, but he believes the largest factor is Amazon's decision to build here is the Airport Employment Growth District (AEGD).

Decades of work went into setting up and re-zoning the planned development area, which in turn attracted Panattoni. Loomis said the company is well-regarded when it comes to warehousing and would have helped bring in Amazon.

"It's not just something that happened overnight. There have been many steps along the way. There's been a lot of criticism, because I think this was formerly farmland," he said of the AEGD.

Loomis noted the COVID-19 pandemic has shown a significant need for online retailers, adding he hopes the delivery giant will help support local brick-and-mortar stores too.

"Hopefully Amazon can incorporate local or Canadian businesses into their plans so they can help Hamiltonians and those throughout the GTA procure Canadian goods."

Amazon has also announced plans for a warehouse in Ajax and Sumegha Kumar, director of Canadian customer fulfilment, said the company is "thrilled" to be expanding its operations.

"We've had great success with the talented workforce in Ontario, and we look forward to creating an additional 2,500 full-time jobs with competitive pay and benefits starting on day one," she said.

Loomis said the jobs are welcome and Amazon's plans show Hamilton is a city worth investing in.

"For the most part, transportation and logistic jobs pay higher than the average wage in Ontario so this will be a boon to the Hamilton workforce."

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