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OAK CREEK — Amazon has received final city approval for construction of an order-fulfillment center in Oak Creek that will create more than 1,500 jobs, the company and City of Oak Creek announced this week. 

The chosen location for the center will have a footprint of more than 600,000 square feet. At four stories, it will be about 2.6 million square feet.

The site is a new business park being developed on the east side of Interstate 94 at Ryan Road near Highway V.

Alyssa Tran with Amazon Corporate Communications said: “Amazon employees at the Oaks Creek fulfillment center will work alongside innovative technology such as Amazon Robotics to pick, pack and ship small items to customers such as household items, electronics and toys.”

The center will also offer positions in operations management, human resources, information technology, facilities management, finance and more.

“We are happy to have Amazon join the Oak Creek community and create more than 1,500 full-time jobs, making it the city’s largest employer,” stated Oak Creek Mayor Dan Bukiewicz. “Amazon has selected a great location — the Oak Creek business park is close to I-94 and poised for future business growth.”

A tax incremental district was established for the site earlier this year. Amazon initially announced plans for the project in July.

“It’s a very good deal for the citizens of Oak Creek,” Bukiewicz said. “It will actually have zero tax impact to them, and it’s expected to be valuable, and the TID should pay off in 10 to 15 years, we’re hoping.”

Although final details are still being worked out between local agencies and Amazon, Bukiewicz hopes residents of southeastern Wisconsin receive the bulk of the jobs. 

“We’re hoping they do their best to hire Milwaukee County residents but I’m sure it’s going to extend into Racine County as well,” Bukiewicz said. 

Already a force in Wisconsin

Amazon currently employs more than 4,000 people across its Wisconsin operations, including a large fulfillment center at I-94 and Highway S in Kenosha, and said it has invested more than $1 billion in the state, including infrastructure and compensation to its employees from 2011-2017.

Amazon offers a $15 minimum wage, along with full-time employee benefits, which include comprehensive healthcare on day one, 401(k) with 50 percent match, up to 20 weeks paid parental leave and Amazon’s innovative Career Choice program, which pre-pays 95 percent of tuition for courses in high-demand fields.

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To make the project a reality, the Oak Creek City Council on Tuesday completed its last agreement related to the project.

The new Amazon structure is planned to be built in the Ryan Business Park, a development partnership of Waukesha-based Capstone Quadrangle and General Capital Group of Fox Point. The park is to consist of the Amazon site with the remaining business park acreage slated for a mix of industrial, manufacturing and consumer support services.

The Amazon site is to be developed and owned by an affiliate of Hillwood Development, LLC, and leased to Amazon.

Tax incentives

As part of a tax increment package, Hillwood will fund infrastructure costs, estimated at $13.4 million, mostly related to rebuilding 13th Street (Highway V) and improvements to Ryan Road (Highway 100). The city is to refund Hillwood for roadway and utility costs, and up to $3.5 million of reimbursable costs to ready the site for development, through new property taxes collected from the development.

“Traffic was the number-one concern for our residents, and the developers are committed to implementing and financing road improvements necessary to avoid traffic congestion, as dictated in a comprehensive traffic impact analysis required by city, county and state transportation authorities,” Oak Creek City Administrator Andrew J. Vickers said in a news release about the project. “From the city’s perspective, being in a position where we did not have to borrow for these infrastructure upgrades was the most important factor in the council’s decision to move forward."

The deal structure is a reimbursement model, with the infrastructure costs being reimbursed only through taxes generated by the Amazon site, not the general taxpayers of the city, Vickers added.

In the agreement between the city and Amazon.com Services Inc., Amazon committed to an investment of not less than $200 million, consisting of $100 million of real property improvements and $100 million of personal property installed in the facility. In addition, Amazon guaranteed to create a minimum of 1,500 full-time jobs with annual gross wages of $40 million by the end of 2021.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is currently negotiating a contract with Amazon for state incentives but there's not a clear deadline. 

The Ryan Business Park has been many years in the planning. Mike Faber of Capstone Quadrangle, the park’s developer, has been attempting to assemble the land for well over a decade.

“This development includes a number of parcels that were privately owned, several of which were in families for over three generations and involved a very complicated land swap with Milwaukee County. Without the county’s land partnership and coordinated efforts among private and public entities, including the City of Oak Creek and State of Wisconsin, we could easily still be at square one,” Faber said. “The key was working to make it a ‘win-win-win’ for all the stakeholders.”

Work at the construction site has already commenced, with anticipated completion and building occupancy projected for the first quarter of 2020.

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Pete Wicklund and Ricardo Torres contributed to this report.

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Assistant Managing Editor

Pete Wicklund is the local editor for The Journal Times.

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