Business group leaders believe new North Pekin Amazon facility can spur more economic growth
While damp weather forced activities inside, nothing could suppress the celebratory mood or the optimism Thursday as Amazon marked the opening of its new fulfillment center in North Pekin.
“This has been three years in the making to get it here,” said Pekin City Council member John Abel. “It's not just helping Pekin, even though we own a lot of land around it for future development. It's going to be a big draw for the region. Most areas beg and try to get an Amazon facility, we've got one.”
The retail giant transformed a former warehouse at 1961 Edgewater Drive into a 90,785-square-foot “last mile” distribution point in its transportation network. Site leader Rob Gruber said it will help service the rural/super rural (RSR) delivery needs of Amazon Prime customers in the area.
“It's exciting for us to become part of the community,” said Gruber. “Amazon and our RSR network is heavily community engagement driven. So, we've got different initiatives that we support not-for-profits in the area. We do volunteer things, try and engage with the community as much as possible.”
Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce President Chris Deverman said he’s hopeful Amazon’s arrival will spur more economic development.
“This opens up the opportunities for many more businesses, whether they'd be like the same type of business or others to come to the area,” said Deverman. “I think it's a huge anchor point for our region, and I'm not talking about just the Pekin/North Pekin area; we're talking central Illinois as a whole, and Greater Peoria, East Peoria. Whether it be new jobs, or businesses that support the workers that are here, it's a huge draw.”
Gruber said Amazon picked the North Pekin location for its proximity to the interstate system and its position in the Peoria metropolitan area. He said Amazon plans to grow the facility’s work force steadily from a modest initial crew.
“Right now today, we started with 30 part-time employees and 13 salaried employees or managers. Eventually we'll be looking at about 200 part-time opportunities and around 15 salaried manager positions,” said Gruber, adding there’s possibility for career advancement in the company.
“Most of the people in my management team are transfers from other sites that have grown with Amazon; some started as part-time employees and have moved into management roles. We also have the opportunities with our scheduling to be flexible. So if people want to, or only can be available to work a few days a week for whatever reason, or as a second job, our schedules are really flexible to allow them to do that.”
Sally Hanley, the director of business assistance for the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, said Amazon’s presence in the region acknowledges the area’s growth potential.
“Of course, we always promote ‘shop local,’ but there are certain items that are not available within the market. It is a good, quality of life addition to our area, so we're thrilled to have them here,” said Hanley.
“Their new technology, the facility, and the operations are top-notch. Just the fact that a large corporation such as Amazon would recognize our opportunities for initial setup and growth, that just gives us the credibility to look for more big opportunities in the future.”