Here’s potentially some good news on the job front: The world’s largest e-commerce company — Seattle-based Amazon.com — apparently has some interest in Southwest Virginia.
Already building its second headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, Amazon was scheduled to meet this week with Gov. Northam and some Southwest Virginia officials in St. Paul, leading to speculation that the giant online retailer might be considering our region for one or more of its distribution facilities.
It’s no secret Amazon needs to continue expanding its distribution operations, as the company famous for two-day delivery of most of what it sells is now moving to one-day delivery.
So far, items and areas eligible for one-day delivery are somewhat limited by the reach of Amazon’s current warehousing and transportation facilities, but the company has been rapidly expanding its reach to stay ahead of the competition.
This week’s meeting — characterized as a “roundtable discussion” — was scheduled for Monday at the Oxbow Center of the University of Virginia’s College at Wise in St. Paul.
Last week, state Del. Todd Pillion, R-Abingdon, said state and regional officials would be hosting representatives of a “big visitor” but didn’t disclose who, according to a story in the Bristol Herald Courier.
“Sunday and Monday we have a big visitor coming to Southwest Virginia,” Pillion said in an interview with the newspaper. “One that we’ve already recruited to the commonwealth and one we feel we have a good chance of getting some jobs down here.”
Amazon already has committed to bringing at least 25,000 new jobs to Northern Virginia as a result of a deal in which the state agreed to provide Amazon with incentives totaling $550 million and invest $195 million to improve infrastructure.
Those jobs are expected to provide an average salary of $150,000 plus benefits over 12 years, according to details on the state’s website.
While distribution center jobs aren’t expected to pay anything near that much, on average, we do know that Amazon last year raised its minimum wage for such workers to $15 an hour — which would go a lot farther toward providing a livable income in most of Southwest Virginia than it would in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.
D.C.’s suburbs have a cost of living similar to that of Amazon’s Seattle base, where we’ve seen reports of some relatively well-paid Amazon employees virtually living on the street because housing costs are so high.
Under the agreement with Virginia’s government, if Amazon creates more than 37,850 jobs, it would receive an additional $200 million in incentives; the state also agreed to invest $1.1 billion in training and education, the Herald Courier reported.
Whether new Amazon jobs in Southwest Virginia would qualify under the current incentive package isn’t clear. But what we do know is that there is a ready and willing workforce throughout our region that could serve the company well.
Amazon Chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos, who also personally owns the Washington Post newspaper, should already have a good knowledge of what Virginia has to offer the company he founded — even in the far southwestern reaches of the state.
Getting some Amazon presence in Southwest Virginia — either with just one or hopefully more distribution facilities — would be a great step forward for our region.
Not only would that bring good jobs for our distressed economy, but it would also help put Southwest Virginia on the map for other tech companies that might consider locating facilities here.
And unlike some people whose opposition ostensibly led to Amazon recently canceling millions of dollars and thousands of jobs it had planned for New York City, let’s rally behind Amazon here in Southwest Virginia and let the company know it’s more than welcome to bring its jobs here.