After finishing construction on new sorters, conveyors and other equipment at its Ruskin Fulfillment Center, Amazon ushered in Gov. Rick Scott and other local dignitaries for a tour Wednesday.
The company, which started out with 1,000 employees in 2014 and now employs 2,500 at the Ruskin location, showed off the precise and very detailed robotic and manual system it uses to launch printer paper, electronic tablets, paper towels and upscale purses to all points in Florida and beyond.
Company officials also announced it is building a new training center on site where employees can take college courses on their off time.
Companies like Amazon are drawn to this area due to an efficient highway system and more ships coming into Port Tampa Bay, Scott said. “We continue to see more and more shipping coming here,” partly as a result of the infrastructure the state is helping to fund, including two new gantry cranes arriving at Port Tampa Bay this week to accommodate wider freighters, he said.
“This is an unbelievable opportunity for our state,” Scott said, ticking off his usual list of statistics, including that Florida has 300,000 job openings right now.
Chris Monott, Amazon’s Ruskin general manager, said the company has received exceptional support from the state and Amazon has found a great talent pool in the area to sort and ship thousands of products seven days a week.
He said the company is proud of the full-time jobs it has been able to create for Floridians, while also providing them with health care benefits and its Career Choice program which provides 90 percent of tuition for employees who want to take college courses.
Brian Owens, regional director of fulfillment centers for Amazon, talked of the relationship between technology and humans in the 4 million square-foot Ruskin warehouse that move millions of inventory items each year. The system allows every kind of company from Florida mom-and-pop operations to huge retail centers to get products out quickly, he said.
“There are not a lot of places where we can say we added 2,500 jobs in a year and a half,” the governor said. “This state is on a roll. It’s great that Amazon is not only creating jobs, but giving back to the community” in which its employees live.
Monott said Amazon does community outreach with a number of charities, including Kids Pack, which provides food to needy children and Fisher House Foundation which helps military veterans.