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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jul. 11, 2017 2 weeks ago

Long line for Amazon jobs

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People wait for hours in the heat to apply at online giant’s first job fair.
by: David Cawton Staff Writer

Hundreds of applicants showed up before noon Monday at the first of six Jacksonville job fairs to fill positions at Amazon.com’s Northwest Jacksonville fulfillment center. 

They waited hours on Monday, but a year overall.

On July 27, Amazon announced it would create more than 1,500 jobs in Jacksonville at the first fulfillment center in the city, at 12900 Pecan Park Road in Northwest Jacksonville.

The JAX Chamber called the internet retailer’s plans the largest single jobs announcement in Jacksonville’s history. 

When the doors opened at 10 a.m. at the Legends Center at 5130 Soutel Drive, people were lined up around the building.

Amazon needs to fill about 1,500 full-time positions at the multilevel, 2.4 million-square-foot fulfillment center that will handle small consumer items. 

Amazon expects to open the center about September.

Applicant Jeannie Williams of North Jacksonville said at 11:30 a.m. that she had spent two hours waiting in the heat.

“If you’re willing to apply for the job, you’ve got to be willing to wait it out,” she said as she neared the front of the line. 

Williams said she was looking for part-time work at the center, which will pick, pack and ship small consumer goods.

Posted full- and part-time positions for the warehouse and sortation center posted online show a pay range of $12 to $16 an hour.

Although Williams called the position “just another job,” she said the pay would be a much-needed second source of income as she tries to make up for the salary she said she lost during the recession. 

“I’m just trying to survive, trying to keep food on the table,” she said. 

Applicant Talus Brown said a job at Amazon would be his ticket to a better life, at least in the short-term. 

“I’m just trying to stay off the streets, turn things around, and do something productive with my time,” he said after completing the application process. 

He said he was drawn to Amazon’s pay and benefits packages and the ability to possibly move up in the company. 

Full-time employees at the fulfillment centers will receive benefits that include medical, dental and vision insurance, a 401(k) and corporate stock awards. 

Legislation adopted by City Council indicates that 500 of the 1,500 positions for the Northwest Jacksonville fulfillment center would pay an average of $50,000 a year.  Those would be operations and management positons.

Amazon also offers full-time employees programs like Career Choice, where the company will pre-pay up to 95 percent of tuition for courses related to in-demand fields, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at Amazon.

Brown said his fiancée already had accepted a position with the online retailer, and that his offer for a warehouse position was contingent on passing the drug and background tests. 

“I think it’s going to have a really big impact here,” Brown said. “You see all the people waiting in line, they’re all looking for work so, I think Amazon found the right place to land.”  

Mayor Lenny Curry and other city leaders have expressed their desire to bring more jobs to areas of need in North and West Jacksonville. 

Area district council members will have a strong presence on the council’s most prominent standing committees, including finance. 

That committee oversees economic development agreements and incentives packages for companies like Amazon that promise to bring jobs. 

Council member Reggie Gaffney, who sits on the finance committee, arrived at Legends Center a little after 11 a.m., shaking applicants’ hands and talking to Amazon staff about managing the process.

“I’m sure at one point Amazon didn’t know if Jacksonville had the workforce to come here, but look around at all these people,” Gaffney said.

“They all want jobs, they just need the opportunity,” he said.

Gaffney represents District 7, which includes parts of Northwest Jacksonville and Downtown.

He said companies like Amazon could help areas he called “the neglected communities in Jacksonville.”

“We rolled out the red carpet for Amazon,” he said. “Now they’re doing their part and hiring people who need the work.” 

Amazon also is building a West Jacksonville fulfillment center in Cecil Commerce Center at 13333 103rd St. to handle large consumer items.

Amazon spokeswoman Shevaun Brown said Monday she did not know when that one would open and that hiring would be two months prior. It is expected to need 1,200 full-time workers.

Council has pledged about $20.5 million in local incentives for Amazon in exchange for the company’s commitment to bring 825 jobs with salaries averaging $50,000 at the two fulfillment centers. 

CareerSource Northeast Florida is helping Amazon with the application process during the job fairs.  

Candace Moody, CareerSource vice president of communications, said the first day’s attendance exceeded expectations, and that nearly 500 applicants had shown up by noon.

“The response has been tremendous,” she said. “I think Amazon has been pleasantly surprised with the interest so far today.” 

Amazon will host two more hiring events Wednesday and Friday at Legends Center.

Applicants also can attend job fairs at the Prime Osborn Convention Center at 1000 Water St. Downtown on July 17, July 19 and July 21.

Although locations and times could change, the remaining job fairs will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

To avoid the lines and heat, job seekers can apply online at amazondelivers.jobs.  

Brown said applicants must be at least 18 years old and bring a valid I.D. if they come in person. 

Amazon also is hiring for positions at a sortation center in Westside Industrial Park. 

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