Amazon opens doors to Spartanburg facility

By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published April 3, 2013

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Bright green kayaks, lawn mowers, fitness equipment, bicycle tires and memory foam mattresses are among the thousands of items being prepped for shipment at Amazon’s fulfillment center here — the online retailer’s second facility in South Carolina.

Elected officials, community business leaders and Amazon associates gathered March 25 for the official opening and a tour of Amazon’s newest South Carolina facility, which opened for business in September.

In July, Amazon hosted the grand opening at its first S.C. fulfillment center near West Columbia in Lexington County.

Amazon now employs more than 400 in Spartanburg. Its employees handle tens of thousands of inbound and outbound shipments every day, including kayaks and lawn mowers. (Photo/Liz Segrist)
Amazon now employs more than 400 in Spartanburg. Its employees handle tens of thousands of inbound and outbound shipments every day, including kayaks and lawn mowers. (Photo/Liz Segrist)

The two facilities are part of Amazon’s pledge to invest $125 million in South Carolina and create 2,000 jobs. The Seattle-based e-commerce giant must hit those marks by the end of 2013 to earn incentives offered by state and local governments.

In Spartanburg, Amazon invested $50 million in a 1 million-square-foot facility that employs more than 400 and handles tens of thousands of inbound and outbound shipments every day, the company said.

Amazon is always searching for expansion opportunities and locations for new facilities, said Mike Roth, Amazon’s North American vice president, who didn’t offer prospective locations.

“We are constantly looking at our nationwide topology,” Roth said. “I can’t give precise locations of the next couple of buildings we plan to build, but there will be continued expansion in the future.”

The Spartanburg facility receives inbound freight from hundreds of retail suppliers and small enterprises every day. The small enterprises use fulfillment by Amazon by sending inventory to the facility to be stored while they sell products through Amazon’s website. Amazon then sends the products directly to the customer.

“The fulfillment by Amazon gives small enterprises the opportunity to send inventory to us. It’s becoming a very successful part of our business,” Roth said, noting that the mega e-commerce site sees continued growth in electronics and general merchandise sectors.

The Spartanburg facility has a training area; sorting areas; an inbound area for goods; and an outbound area where goods are packaged and shipped out by a variety of carriers.

Employees do not need specific skills to work at the facility. They undergo on-the-job training, such as obstacle course driving and placing items in storage, sometimes 30 feet in the air.

“The workforce has been fantastic, and it has exceeded every single expectation that we could have had,” Roth said.

During the opening, Spartanburg County Councilman Jeff Horton, Spartanburg Mayor Junie White and Rep. Mike Forrester spoke of Spartanburg’s leadership, interstates, future inland port, schools and workforce as some of the attributes that helped recruit Amazon to the area.

“South Carolina’s national reputation immediately caught our attention,” Roth said. “You don’t have companies such as Milliken, Boeing, BMW, Bridgestone, Michelin and many others without a great business environment, a quality workforce and great community support.”

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