Gary raised eyebrows nationwide when it took out a full-page ad in The New York Times last year pitching itself as a site for the Amazon HQ2.
The Steel City didn’t end up landing the $5 billion investment and 50,000 new jobs Amazon promised at its new headquarters, which ended up being split between New York City and the Washington D.C. suburbs in Northern Virginia.
But Gary did land 500 new jobs at an Amazon delivery station that recently opened in the city. Not as large as the massive Amazon distribution centers that have cropped up around Chicagoland and central Indiana over the past decade, the delivery station is a warehouse for local shipping, one of the 24/7 last-mile carrier sites that Amazon has been placing all across the country to improve its distribution network to ship packages to Prime subscribers and other customers.
Amazon Worldwide Transportation Public Relations Director Kelly Cheeseman said the Seattle-based e-commerce giant has hired 500 employees at its Gary delivery station since it opened last month.
“At this location, we take Amazon packages and get them out on the road for delivery to customers,” Cheeseman said. “The site is run by Amazon and we have Amazon associates working within the site who help sort packages to go out for delivery. Then, once the packages are headed out for delivery we utilize a variety of carriers to deliver to customers. In a typical station that can be delivery service providers who run their own small businesses delivering to Amazon customers or Amazon Flex participants.”
Amazon opened the delivery station in a former TradeWinds plant at 15th Avenue and Texas Street, right by the 15th Avenue exit on Interstate 65 by Interstates 90 and 94, according to Joe van Dyk, executive director of the city's Department of Planning and Redevelopment.
Amazon, which pulled in more than $177.8 billion in revenue in 2017, did not seek any tax incentives from the city of Gary for the operation.
"They didn't ask for anything," van Dyk said. "They did some work to the building and have it up and running and operational."
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said the delivery station means more employment opportunities for city residents. The city has been actively courting warehouses, trucking terminals and other logistics businesses as it looks to boost its assessed valuation.
"It is consistent with our plan for logistics, taking advantage of our central location and the transportation assets of the city," she said. "One of the things we always talk about is Gary having the assets of Interstates 65, 80, 94 and 90."
Gary residents also will have the opportunity to start their own Amazon delivery businesses, which would move packages from the warehouse to customer's homes, Freeman-Wilson said. They would have to invest $10,000 and get training in Seattle. They could then be a sole owner-operator or hire up to 40 people.
"They want to allow people to start their own courier services to reduce their dependency on the postal service," Freeman said of Amazon. "While it's nice to have large businesses like Amazon, Alliance Steel and U.S. Steel, 60 percent of citizens are employed by small business, so the potential growth in small businesses and entrepreneurship is wholly consistent with what the city needs."
"We're talking to them about potentially providing the training regimen at a location in Gary," Freeman-Wilson added
The Amazon warehouse has been bustling since it opened with a lot of cars and trucks running in and out, Freeman-Wilson said.
"It absolutely speaks to the advantages of how Gary is close to the population center of North America, major highways and an airport that's suitable for cargo," she said. "We've talked to them about how the airport is under-utilized and presents an opportunity to be used to help with their delivery."
Cheeseman declined to comment on whether Amazon’s decision to locate a delivery station in the city had been influenced by Gary's HQ2 bid.
“We place delivery stations in locations where it helps us better serve customers with fast, free shipping,” Cheeseman said. “We also look for locations with a great workforce and we’ve found talent in abundance in Gary.”
Amazon had posted job ads for driver trainers, part-time assistant managers, full-time assistant managers, shift assistants, station operations managers, assistant managers and seasonal delivery associates in Gary and area managers and shift managers for logistics in Munster earlier this year. The company said in a job posting that the seasonal delivery jobs paid $15.50 an hour for up to 12-hour shifts delivering packages.
Freeman-Wilson also said Amazon was paying $1.20 extra an hour for weekend shifts.
Cheeseman did not clarify how many of the 500 jobs were seasonal and how many of the positions were full-time.