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New jobs loom as warehouses for Amazon, Ulta rise rapidly in south Fresno

Take a peek inside an Amazon fulfillment center

Amazon plans to open a 855,000-square-foot warehouse in Fresno expecting to employ about 1,500 workers when it opens.
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Amazon plans to open a 855,000-square-foot warehouse in Fresno expecting to employ about 1,500 workers when it opens.

From what was empty land just a few months ago, a pair of large warehouses are rapidly rising from the ground in a south Fresno industrial park with the promise of hundreds of new jobs for the city.

Ulta Beauty, the nation’s largest retailer of cosmetics and fragrances, will occupy a 670,000-square-foot distribution center being erected at East and Central avenues. Illinois-based contractor Clayco reported earlier this year that construction was expected to be completed by the end of this year. Ulta said the company will hire an initial workforce of more than 540 employees before the distribution center opens in the summer of 2018. The number of employees could swell to more than 1,000 with seasonal hiring during busy times of the year.

Amazon webcam 9-12
A construction-site webcam shows work underway on Amazon’s new order-filling center in south Fresno. A new Ulta Beauty distribution center is being built to the west and is visible in the distance. CLAYCO

Less than a half-mile away, a crane was busy Tuesday erecting tilt-up concrete walls for online retail giant Amazon’s new warehouse, from which the company will process and ship orders for its growing number of Amazon Prime members and other online customers in the Valley. Clayco is also the contractor for Amazon’s building, which will occupy more than 855,000 square feet and employ about 1,100 people when it opens next year.

Together, the companies represent two of the most significant job-generating developments secured by the city in recent years. Neither company has begun hiring in earnest for their new warehouses, but Ulta has a handful of management or supervisory positions listed for the Fresno site on the careers section of its website, careers.ulta.com.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company has not yet set a schedule for hiring workers or opening the center. The company has no listings for the Fresno location on its employment web page, www.amazon.jobs. At the groundbreaking in June, Amazon West Coast operations director Kelvin Downes said hiring won’t begin until sometime next year, in the months before the center opens. People can keep tabs on the progress of Amazon’s construction on the contractor’s webcams.

This is where we’ll maximize our Prime membership. We’ll be picking orders, packing orders and shipping orders to local customers.

Kelvin Downes, Amazon director for west coast operations

Downes said the cadre of hourly associates who will work at Amazon’s Fresno warehouse “will be putting items on shelves, picking items from a shelf, packing it all together to make sure we get the right items in the right box at the right time, and then shipping it out to the customer.” The company expects the Fresno center to handle orders for smaller-sized goods such as books, electronic devices and toys.

Amazon
Cranes lift tilt-up concrete walls into position on Tuesday, Sept. 12, at Amazon’s new order-filling center under construction on Orange Avenue between North and Central avenues in south Fresno. TIM SHEEHAN tsheehan@fresnobee.com

Fresno will be one of Amazon’s newest generation of robotic fulfillment centers where robots retrieve merchandise from shelves and ferry it to workers who sort and pack the items for shipping. The robots, Downes said, “allow us, in some cases, to ship (an order) in minutes rather than hours.”

Ulta announced Fresno as its choice for the location of the warehouse in April after considering sites in both California and Nevada. Amazon made its announcement in June, followed by a groundbreaking soon after. Both decisions came after the Fresno City Council approved substantial economic incentives, including tax rebates, to entice the companies to build here.

The incentives for Ulta are estimated to be worth up to $18 million over 30 years, based in part on the number of employees the company hires. By contrast, the new building represents a capital investment of about $110 million, and the city estimates that the warehouse will generate tens of millions of dollars in additional sales and property taxes for Fresno even after the incentives.

Amazon is receiving even more in incentives from the city – a maximum of $30 million over 30 years – to build its $200 million warehouse in Fresno. The Amazon site is the same property that in 2015 was being considered by brick-and-mortar retailer Nordstrom as a distribution center before the company put its plans on ice.

Amazon, Ulta jobs

Neither Amazon nor Ulta are hiring in earnest yet to staff their new warehouses that are under construction in Fresno. Both are expected to open sometime in mid-2018.

▪ To learn more about jobs at Amazon, visit www.amazon.jobs/.

▪ To learn more about jobs at Ulta, visit careers.ulta.com/.

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