PAPILLION — Nebraska’s first and massive Amazon “fulfillment center” has opened in this Omaha metro area suburb, initially employing about 300 (not including robots that are to work alongside the humans).
The opening this week came later than the originally projected 2022 date, but sooner than the 2024 date that officials last year said was more likely due to “supply chain issues.”
Rescheduled launch unexplained
When asked about the timing changeup, Amazon spokesman Andy DiOrio said, “We’re always evaluating our network to ensure it fits our business needs and to improve the experience for our employees, customers, partners and drivers.”
The retail giant did not elaborate on why the facility had grown from its original planned size of 700,000 square feet to more than 1 million square feet.
As has been typical, Amazon officials did not specify the investment or price tag but said their venture comes in response to customer demand. It is the first fulfillment center in the state, and will serve the Midwest region.
The plant northeast of Nebraska Highways 370 and 50 is expected to create “at least 1,000 good jobs to maximize its capacity,” an Amazon statement said. Hiring continues for positions that start at $16.50 an hour, with benefits starting the first day.
“To open Amazon’s first sortable fulfillment center in Nebraska is a milestone moment and we look forward to further supporting customers in Papillion, Omaha and surrounding communities,” said site leader Aaron Schmidt.
Economic development coup
When Amazon and Nebraska officials announced the project via a virtual press conference in 2020, local business leaders described it as that year’s largest economic development coup in a seven-county area surrounding Omaha.
It is to feature robots working alongside humans, preparing items for delivery to front porches.
Greater Omaha Chamber leaders said at the time that they expected the operation to have a $203 million annual economic impact in the metro area.
Once fully operational, Amazon says the new Papillion center will be able to contain millions of products. It is the type of plant where employees pick, pack and ship customer orders such as books, toys and housewares.
Amazon Robotics technology offers the ability for robots to work alongside humans to “create a more efficient process to meet customer demand,” Amazon said in a statement.
Code name ‘Willa’
Prior to the new center opening, Amazon said it had invested $250 million-plus in Nebraska since 2010, including infrastructure and compensation to employees.
The land alone for the Papillion center, about 94 acres, sold several years ago to an Amazon affiliate for $12.3 million.
Amazon officials typically are secretive about their ventures. The Papillion project moved through the Papillion Planning Board approval process under the code name Willa.
The Papillion center is Amazon’s fifth operational location in the Omaha region. The company says that, in total, it currently has more than 1,000 employees in the area.
Other facilities include two delivery stations in Papillion and Omaha: an Amazon Air Gateway operation that opened at Eppley Airfield in February 2022 and a supplemental fulfillment center in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
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