Amazon Confirms Another Central Arkansas Fulfillment Center

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Amazon confirmed plans Thursday to open a new fulfillment center in North Little Rock next year and create more than 500 full-time jobs with a minimum $15 per hour wage there.

This will be the Seattle-based online retailer’s sixth location in central Arkansas.

The others are:

  • An 825,000-SF fulfillment center at the Little Rock Port that will employ more than 1,000 full-time workers and is also set to open next year. Arkansas Business was the first to report on the center in April.
  • An 85,000-SF delivery station in the former Jacuzzi plant at 12401 Interstate 30 in southwest Little Rock that was set to employ hundreds and opened this year. 
  • A 25,000-SF delivery station at 400 Sharkey Drive in Maumelle that was set to create “dozens” of jobs and opened this year. 
  • A 14,760-SF delivery station at 1920 N. Locust St. in North Little Rock that opened in 2018.
  • A Whole Foods Market store at 501 S. Bowman Road in Little Rock. Amazon purchased the grocery chain in 2017.

Arkansas Business’ Whispers column on Monday reported more details about the newest project — a 1 million-SF non-sortable center on part of a 154-acre tract owned by Tulip Farms Inc. near the Galloway exit in North Little Rock.

Amazon hasn’t bought the site near the northeast corner of U.S. 70 and Arkansas 391 yet, but it is under contract. Ahead of the purchase, site work at 13001 U.S. 70 is in full swing under the supervision of Alston Construction Co. of Collierville, Tennessee.

Alicia Boler Davis, Amazon’s vice president of global customer fulfillment, said in a news release Thursday that “Amazon is grateful for the continued support we’ve received from local and state leaders, and we look forward to leveraging our scale for good to support this great community.”

The project is among 39 fulfillment centers around the country that Amazon is forecast to open next year. Robert Birch, North Little Rock’s director of business development, said Amazon’s growing presence in central Arkansas “points to one of the real advantages that central Arkansas has of being, really, a transportation hub. … You can get anywhere within about five hours.”

In the Amazon statement, Gov. Asa Hutchinson noted North Little Rock’s “central location” and “dedicated workforce” among the reasons the company is building there.

“I’m delighted that Amazon has once again decided to invest in central Arkansas, creating job opportunities for hundreds of Arkansans, and I’m confident that North Little Rock will be a perfect fit for the company’s project,” he said.

North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith said Amazon is expanding in other places, but added that “we’re fortunate that we’re right smack dab in the middle of the world, if you will, with the [Interstate] 30-40 split here in North Little Rock.

“And that’s why these properties that we have are so popular right now with these distribution companies,” he said. “And so I think it had a lot to do with our location.”

But he also credited the area’s workforce and the company’s previous experience working with the city on its very first central Arkansas site, the North Locust Street delivery center.

“I’ve been in this economic development business for 30 years, and I really think that Amazon had such a good experience when we were building the tent warehouse, for lack of a better word, that they realized, No. 1, that the cities here would work with them as best as we possibly could, so that they could hire our people,” he said. “And I think that experience being pleasant for them and timely is what encouraged them to build both of these facilities — the one in Little Rock and the one in North Little Rock.”

Birch cited another reason for expansion — a U.S. supply chain “beaten up” by the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies like Amazon are working to improve them, he said.

“I think you’re going to see a lot more, honestly, of redefining the supply chains across the country,” he said. “Because when you get to a point where you can’t get even, in a sensible time, products or services that you need … the supply chains were just kind of busted up.”

Birch said that, with this model, the retailer can fall back on a Little Rock-area facility if something causes a facility in a neighboring state to halt operations, and vice versa.

Birch said that the Amazon jobs will provide relief for Arkansans who have been out of work due to the pandemic, and that these projects may offer local retailers the opportunity to approach Amazon about selling their wares on its platform. He said he expects Amazon’s growth in Arkansas to continue.

Arkansas has committed up to $2 million from Act 1 Surplus Funds to be used for infrastructure improvements, which will increase access to the site, according to Chelsea O’Kelley, director of communications for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. She said the money will go toward construction and improvements at the Highway 70 intersections with Highway 391.

At the city level, North Little Rock waived permit fees for the project and partnered with CenterPoint Energy, North Little Rock Wastewater and Central Arkansas Water to extend utilities to the Galloway site.

The boom in central Arkansas Amazon projects comes three years after Little Rock decided not to submit a bid for the company’s high-profile, nationwide search for a second North American headquarters.

Instead, the city launched the “Love, Little Rock” ad campaign, through which the city told the e-commerce giant that, although it didn’t meet some of Amazon’s requirements for a headquarters, it would be a good fit for other businesses.

The ad campaign included a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal and even an aerial banner that flew over Amazon’s Seattle headquarters that read, “Hey Amazon, it’s not you, it’s us.”