Amazon opened the doors of its gigantic Opa-locka fulfillment center on Friday, June 28th–the culmination of almost a decade’s worth of deal-making and the capstone to one of the largest single job-creation projects in the history of Miami-Dade.
“This will help ensure Florida is at the top when it comes to high-skilled jobs,” said Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, who was on hand for the grand opening ceremony.
Joining her were U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, county Commissioners Barbara Jordan and Jean Monestime, and Miami-Dade Deputy Mayor Maurice Kemp.
Also in attendance was Carrie Meek. Now 93, Meek was the first black woman elected to the Florida Senate and the first to represent Florida in Congress. Her Carrie Meek Foundation took custody of the 122-acre, county-owned property, which sits next to Opa-locka Executive Airport, more than a decade ago. After nearly losing its lease, the foundation announced in 2016 that Amazon would come on as the primary tenant of the property, now known as the Carrie Meek International Business Park.
The project also won a $5 million county subsidy to cover some development costs, a grant awarded in connection with hiring requirements tied to the public land. An initial job requirement of 2,300 was later scaled back to 1,500.
The fulfillment center has been on-line since September. It now employs more than 1,500 full-time workers, with a starting wage of $15 an hour. The facility itself is 855,000 square feet — about 14 football fields — and contains thousands of movable shelves that sit atop robotic, Roomba-like sleds.
Claudio Innocente, the fulfillment center’s director, estimates the facility holds 15 million items. While many deliveries will be for Southeast customers, the facility will also be used to ship and receive worldwide. The Miami Herald previously reported that South Florida is home to one of the largest concentrations of independent Amazon sellers in the U.S., entrepreneurs who use Amazon’s infrastructure to buy and sell goods around the globe. Fifty percent of Amazon’s order volume is now composed of independent sellers, the company says.
Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour in November after reports of intense working conditions. A Miami Herald reporter who took a tour of the facility found it loud but clean, with water stations and restrooms positioned close to activity hubs. Workers there were friendly but intensely focused. One, Gloria Inoa, 30, said she’d already been promoted three times since she came on last September.
Amazon officials did not immediately provide her exact wage but said it was more than $15 an hour. Employees like Inoa also receive some health benefits and leave, the company said. Amazon says it has created more than 13,000 full-time jobs in Florida since landing in the state in 2010.