How Amazon’s explosive U.S. growth is producing thousands of jobs in Ohio, Kentucky

A machine applies shipping lables to packed orders at an  Amazon fulfillment center.

Credit: Rick T. Wilking

Credit: Rick T. Wilking

A machine applies shipping lables to packed orders at an Amazon fulfillment center.

Amazon is growing at breakneck speed across the nation and in Ohio, where it has created 6,000 jobs in the past seven years and has commitments to add 5,500 more employees.

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Last week, the online giant said it would open a package-sorting “air gateway” at Wilmington Air Park, an airport 40 minutes southeast of Dayton that was decimated in the past decade when cargo carrier DHL announced it was leaving town.

“We have all the right ingredients for companies to succeed in e-commerce here,” said Ted Griffith, a managing director at JobsOhio, the state’s economic development organization.

The Wilmington announcement preceded the company’s biggest news in its history when it announced Tuesday that it had picked New York and Northern Virginia’s Crystal City over 238 U.S. cities to split its highly sought second headquarters. The company has said the headquarters come with a $5 billion investment and up to 50,000 jobs that pay, on average, $150,000 apiece.

Although Ohio was not chosen for the second headquarters, the $178 billion company appears to have an affinity to the Buckeye State where it's now one of the top 60 largest employers.

In May, Amazon announced plans to open its sixth Ohio fulfillment center in West Jefferson, creating more than 1,500 full-time jobs by the end of 2019. This is in addition to fulfillment centers already operating in Etna and Obetz, with new fulfillment centers slated for Monroe and North Randall by the end of 2018, and another one in Euclid in 2019.

The new Wilmington air gateway will retrofit existing space at the Air Park, in buildings F and A. In all, it will take up 1.2 million square feet and about 35 acres. The company would not say how many jobs will be coming with the new sorting center.

“We think this operation will be consequential,” said Dan Evers, executive director of the Clinton County Port Authority, which owns and manages the Air Park.

The nation’s biggest e-retailer has about 20 gateway operations, all part of the company’s national air cargo network.

Geographically, Wilmington makes sense within Amazon’s network, given the facility’s proximity to the busy Amazon hub at Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Airport, Evers said.

Said Evers: “Air cargo is in our DNA.”

Buckeye State growth

Amazon has invested more than $2 billion in Ohio since 2011.

But Amazon is not the only company drawn to Ohio and its strength in logistics. The roster of companies investing in large local distribution operations just in the Dayton area grows longer by the year — Caterpillar Logistics, Payless Shoe Source, Crown Packaging, Heidelberg, Spectrum, Purina, Chewy Inc. and many others.

Griffith cites proximity to consumers, a "fantastic" labor force and road system, a tax regimen that does not tax inventory — plus, more than 25 universities in Ohio with logistics programs.