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As Amazon continues to expand in Utah, with another facility poised to open next year, residents may wonder where exactly the company is located, and if it has lived up to promises made in exchange for millions of dollars in tax incentives.
After touring Amazon’s Salt Lake City fulfillment center, located just west of the international airport, this summer, The Salt Lake Tribune is providing an update on the online retail and distribution giant’s footprint in Utah.
Amazon currently has 16 facilities in the state — including sorting centers, delivery stations, corporate offices and PillPack, Amazon’s pharmacy distribution center — and has hired 8,000 full-time and part-time employees, as of the end of 2020, Natalie Wolfrom, company spokesperson, wrote in an email.
It is difficult to provide a breakdown of exactly how many employees work at each facility, Wolfrom said, “because it flexes so much, especially during peak [times], so the numbers are never accurate.” She did say, though, that the Salt Lake City fulfillment center at 777 N. 5600 West has roughly 3,900 employees, while a warehouse at 7148 W. Old Bingham Highway in West Jordan has 1,100 workers.
Wolfrom provided a partial list of addresses for the 16 facilities. There are at least seven facilities in Salt Lake City, two in West Jordan, and one each in West Valley City, American Fork and North Salt Lake. Wolfrom also said Amazon was located in Cedar City, but a city official told The Tribune no business license was listed for the company.
In November, Amazon is opening a new 150,000-square-foot “mini” fulfillment center at 6338 W. 700 North in Salt Lake City, where same-day orders and deliveries will be prepared.
The company is also launching a facility next year in Marriott-Slaterville, near Ogden, but a specific date has not been announced.
“This facility is our last-mile connectivity between our larger facilities,” Wolfrom said. “...In these buildings, orders are prepared for last-mile delivery to customers.”
In June, The Tribune was invited by Amazon for an up-close view at the Salt Lake City fulfillment center, where crews prepare the packages that end up in Utahns’ mailboxes and on their doorsteps. The facility is 855,000 square feet and has 15 miles of conveyers. Flat orange robots move yellow towers filled with items around for employees to load and unload.
The Salt Lake City fulfillment center mostly handles small items, a spokesperson said, while larger objects are moved at the West Jordan location.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, employees had their temperature screened and were handed masks while going through security to enter the building. Dots along the floor reminded people to social distance, with dividers in place to direct traffic going in different directions. Video screens showed employees if they were getting too close to other people.
A COVID-19 testing area was located near the front of the facility, next to the company’s injury-prevention center. Rodrigo Ortigoza, senior operations manager, said the facility never shut down during the pandemic, and instead put safety measures in place and regularly asked employees for feedback.
The center has held vaccination events for employees and their families. Amazon also had a sweepstakes for fully vaccinated workers, and, in October, Nicholaus Curd, of Salt Lake City, won a new car worth $40,000, Wolfrom said.
“This is really crazy,” Curd said in a news release. “Since I don’t have a car, I take Lyft and Uber to work each day.”
Curd was originally hesitant to get vaccinated, according to a release from Amazon, but ultimately decided to receive the vaccine because he lives with a person who is at a higher risk of complications from the virus, as well as to protect his family, friends and co-workers.
Lourdes Perez-Monroy has organized some of the vaccination clinics at the Salt Lake City fulfillment center and helps with virtual tours. She was studying psychology at the University of California, Merced, when the coronavirus pandemic hit. So, she moved to Utah to be with her family and took at job at Amazon as a stower.
“I still plan on going back to school,” Perez-Monroy said. “And through Amazon, we have a lot of resources to go back to school and still work at the same time,” such as through its Career Choice program.
When Amazon opened its fulfillment center near the Salt Lake City International Airport a few years ago, the state agreed to $5.6 million in tax breaks if the company hit certain benchmarks, such as paying above the Salt Lake County average wage for some of the jobs.
Tony Young, spokesperson for Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, said the state is “unable to publicly verify the status” of Amazon’s award and any tax credits the company has received.
“Our effort is to always be as transparent as is possible,” Young wrote in an email, “while still maintaining confidences with the company and protecting proprietary documents.”
He added, “A company must meet all reporting requirements, which we independently verify, prior to claiming their tax credit,” and the files “are audited regularly by outside third parties to ensure compliance with the statute that governs the program.”
Wolfrom said that Amazon has “met and exceeded the requirements of this program and [is] working both in partnership with the state on the growth of that facility, and our workforce staffing team is partnering with the state’s labor department to bring more quality jobs to Utah.”
West Jordan officials previously approved $1.6 million in incentives for Amazon for a fulfillment center in the city, and Amazon agreed to build road, waterlines and storm drains “at a cost greater than the agreement’s value.”
Those improvements have since “been constructed, inspected and accepted by the city of West Jordan,” Tauni Barker, the city’s director of community engagement and government affairs, wrote in an email, and the $1.6 million was paid out of the local [redevelopment agency] as “a reimbursement for the infrastructure work completed in advance by the developer.”
“There was no tie to jobs in the agreement,” according to Barker.
Wolfrom said, “When we invest in facilities like this, we also invest in the surrounding community, and help upgrade infrastructure including new roads, water lines, etc. We invest a significant amount of money to help pay for infrastructure improvements.”