JOLIET – After months of speculation, Amazon.com has announced Joliet will be the site of the online retail giant's first fulfillment center in Illinois – a move that will create 1,000 full-time jobs.
Amazon is retrofitting a 500,000-square-foot warehouse in the Laraway Crossings Business Park at Route 53 and Laraway Road to fill online orders and process small items, such as books, electronics and consumer goods, the company announced Monday.
The new Joliet location is part of Amazon's ongoing efforts to invest heavily in fulfillment centers nationwide in the face of increased demand for online shopping and growing competition from both Internet and brick-and-mortar retailers such as eBay, Wal-Mart and others.
Fulfillment centers are where incoming orders are received from affiliated stores or locations, and then processed and filled.
John Greuling, president and CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development, said Amazon is acting aggressively in its real estate acquisitions in hopes of capitalizing on the e-commerce industry's growing demand.
"I think a lot of people thought Amazon was taking over the [retail] world but the reality is, e-commerce is still a relatively small percentage of sales," Greuling said. "So companies like Amazon are seeing a tremendous market upside over the next five, 10 years because there's so much incremental growth that they think they can go after."
It was initially anticipated Amazon would bring 500 jobs, but that estimation has doubled. Amazon is already listing job openings for the Joliet site online. Pay varies but job descriptions show wages in the $13 to $15 range.
Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk, who was elected in April, said the project has been in the pipeline for some time. The City Council in April approved a preliminary plat for the project but officials at the time said they were restricted from specifying which e-commerce company would be moving in.
O'Dekirk said it didn't come as a surprise that Amazon chose Joliet, because of its proximity to the Chicago market and easy access to interstates 80 and 55.
The online retail giant declined to disclose via email if the company was offered any state incentives to come to Joliet. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Amazon was not offered any local incentives, Greuling said.
Greuling said it's great news that Amazon – which in January began collecting state sales tax from Illinois customers for the first time under a new state law – chose Illinois in spite of the sales tax law change.
"That was always the first big stumbling block, not only in coming to Illinois, but other states as well," he said.
O'Dekirk said it's good news for the city as more businesses decided to move to the area.
Amazon spokeswoman Nina Lindsey said in an email the company will offer competitive wages and comprehensive benefits.
The company is ahead of two other major projects slated for the Laraway Crossings Business Park, including IKEA's 1.4 million-square-foot distribution center and Cadence Premier Logistics' corporate office move from Alsip to Joliet.