Amazon’s announcement of opening a store in the Tri-Cities and hiring 1,500 people next year has already prompted local business leaders to think about where to find these workers .
Last week, the world’s largest online retailer announced it would build a massive distribution center in eastern Pasco.
Its two Pasco warehouses will each have 1 million square feet and will need 750 workers to distribute everything from housewares, books, toys and technology to furniture and outdoor equipment.
Amazon isn’t hiring for these jobs yet, giving local leaders time to join Amazon to recruit employees, but it should already prove difficult.
“The next step in the process is when they really start recruiting,” Mike Gonzalez, Pasco’s director of economic development, said on a Tri-Cities Development Council show. “It’s going to be a challenge, especially in this environment – there are a lot of positions to fill. “
The eastern Pasco warehouses cost around $ 200 million and will be among the largest in North America when completed next fall.
Darigold also announced this summer that it will hire 200 permanent positions for its new $ 500 million processing plant under construction at the Reimann industrial center in Pasco.
“Are we going to have the workforce in place? Gonzalez asked during the “Coffee with Karl” discussion with Karl Dye, the director of TRIDEC.
Already, restaurants, stores, and businesses in Mid-Columbia are struggling to hire enough employees to stay open all hours.
Some Tri-Cities restaurant owners have offered signing bonuses of $ 300 for cooks to stay for three months, and have yet to receive applications.
And Amazon might make hiring even more daunting for some.
The E-commerce giant offers $ 3,000 Login bonus for new hires in Spokane Valley hired for certain shifts and jobs by the October 10 deadline.
All Amazon jobs in Tri-Cities will be full-time, the company said, and start at $ 18 an hour. And Gonzalez said wages would drop to $ 22 or $ 23 an hour.
Washington’s current minimum wage is $ 13.69.
Recruitment in Western Washington
Still, the current Tri-City workforce is unlikely to be able to provide the number of employees needed and wages alone may not be enough to entice people to relocate to the Tri-area. Cities to work for Amazon.
“I definitely think we need a game plan. We can’t expect Amazon to show up and everyone to pour in, ”Gonzalez said.
Stephen McFadden, Director of Economic Development for the Port of Pasco agrees.
He said when Amazon built a distribution center in Airway Heights, just east of Spokane, surrounding entities and government agencies pooled their resources and spent $ 500,000 on a marketing campaign.
The effort targeted workers in the western part of the state to check the quality of life and opportunities in eastern Washington.
“We have to look at which version of Tri-City is and try to answer the important questions,” McFadden said. “There is a great quality of life in Tri-Cities, and I think we have to sell it and sell it very well – and very passionately.”
Dye examines the big picture to advance TRIDEC’s mission to help stimulate and support the economic growth of the Tri-Cities.
The economic development agency was not part of planning for Amazon’s decision, but hopes to help Amazon and local leaders take a close look at the assets needed to support a large influx of workers.
“When we hire a huge employer, we have to make sure that we are doing whatever is right with this type of growth in the economy,” Dye said.