Amazon process assistant Christian Ramirez-Gallegos kneels as he sorts packages at the Amazon fulfillment center Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2019 south of Fresno. Credit: ERIC PAUL ZAMORA / Fresno Bee

What's at stake?

Cities often want large warehouse companies such as Amazon for the jobs these facilities create. But it's not always clear how many net new jobs they will bring.

A new “last mile” Amazon warehouse has opened in Fresno – but it’s not clear how many new jobs it will bring.

Located on Olive and Clovis avenues, the new warehouse, known by branch code DSJ5, commenced operations in October, Natalie Banke, a spokesperson for Amazon, confirmed in an email statement to The Bee/Fresnoland.

“DSJ5 has replaced our legacy site DFA2,” Banke said. DFA2 is the Amazon delivery station formerly located on 2325 S. Cedar Ave. in south Fresno.

In initial reports announcing the new 183,000-square-foot warehouse, Amazon officials stated the facility would bring over 500 full and part time jobs to the area.

Workers and Amazon officials say current employees are being transferred to the new site from DFA2, the now-closed warehouse in south Fresno.

Banke would not confirm whether the site would have 500 new jobs in addition to the employees that transferred from the closed DFA2 site.

“Employees working at DFA2 have moved to DSJ5, which offers more space and amenities for our employees,” Banke said.

It’s unclear how many new jobs, in addition to the transferred employees, the new last mile location will bring.

She said, however, that the new site employs “hundreds of full time and part time employees,” and is currently hiring more full time, part-time, and seasonal employees “in addition to our employees who have transferred from DFA2.”

City of Fresno spokesperson Sontaya Rose declined to comment on questions about the number of jobs Amazon has brought to the area, citing a need for more exact data. She did not immediately respond to questions on whether the city keeps track of the number of jobs Amazon brings to the city.

Fresno City Council President Nelson Esparza, whose district includes the new warehouse, said he doesn’t have clarity about the number of jobs Amazon’s last mile facility will bring to Fresno because the project was spearheaded by the city administration.

“The council has never had a say over the opening of that facility,” he said.

Back in February when initial news reports confirmed the facility was opening, Councilmember Tyler Maxwell said the nature of the project was kept “pretty hush hush” by both the developer and the city manager’s office.

Lee Ann Eager, president and chief executive officer of the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation did not immediately respond to an email as to whether the EDC keeps track of the number of jobs Amazon brings to the city.

‘It’s not just about the number of jobs’

The question of how many jobs an Amazon facility brings to a local economy is one that researchers and city leaders have been asking for years.

In 2018, the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute released a study titled “Unfulfilled Promises” which concluded that Amazon’s fulfillment centers “do not generate broad-based employment job growth.” Researchers told The Bee that jobs created in warehousing and storage are likely offset by job losses in other industries.

Meanwhile, in 2019, Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias, whose district includes an 855,000-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center at 3575 S. Orange Ave., criticized the city of Fresno administration for providing Amazon with an $30 million subsidy – but one that did not require the company to hire residents from the city, much less from the nearby neighborhoods.

Rose, the city’s spokesperson, confirmed in a Nov. 23 email statement to The Bee/Fresnoland that the new last mile warehouse “did not receive any fee waivers or credits.”

Ivanka Saunders, a policy advocate with Leadership Counsel who has been following the city and county’s land use process in Fresno, said focusing solely on the number of jobs isn’t the “whole concern.”

“It’s not just about the number of jobs,” she said in a recent interview with The Bee/Fresnoland.

“That is what the narrative our city and our county officials want us, as the public, to focus on” because it makes them look good, she said.

For Saunders, the bigger question is the speed with which the permitting processes are approved.

Saunders said the city of Fresno should “pause” and ask if these are good paying jobs and do more public engagement to understand how industrial facilities impact nearby communities.

In March, an Amazon spokesperson said positions start at $17.25 per hour and include comprehensive benefits such as healthcare, paid time off, dental, and vision care.

Additionally, Saunders said that focusing solely on the number of jobs “makes it seem as if the only way that our county or city can grow is with more distribution style factories.”

Amazon abandons South Fresno warehouse

The Southeast Fresno DFA2 warehouse quietly closed last month.

The space, which was zoned for light industrial use, was listed as available for lease on the real estate site LoopNet on Nov. 3.

In a call with The Bee/Fresnoland on Nov 18, Ethan H. Smith, senior vice president of Newmark Pearson Commercial, the real estate company in charge of leasing the site of the former Amazon delivery station on Cedar Avenue, said they’re looking for another company to move in, such as a growing company or one that’s new to the area.

“We don’t want it to sit vacant for a long time,” Smith said.

The firm is looking for an industrial, manufacturing, or food production business to lease the site.

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Melissa is a labor and economic inequality reporter with The Fresno Bee and Fresnoland.

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