Hiring delays prompt questions about Amazon's fulfillment center in Detroit

Posted at 1:12 PM, Dec 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-05 06:43:56-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — A 3.8 million square foot Amazon fulfillment center in Detroit has promised more than a thousand local jobs and millions in economic impact for the city.

The Detroit City Council green lit the deal with Amazon back in October 2020.

The fulfillment center was supposed to be operational in the middle of this summer but has yet to fully open.

Frank and Karen Hammer, who have been outspoken about their opposition to the city’s deal with Amazon, want an explanation.

“Where are the jobs?” said Frank standing outside his home in Detroit, which is not far from the development site.

“The reason the city did engineer Amazon to come here, was in the name of jobs,” Frank told 7 Action News.

That is also one of the reasons the couple was against the deal, aside from pollution and environmental concerns. Karen said she feared Amazon wouldn’t be strictly bound to hire Detroiters.

7 Action News reached out to the city of Detroit for clarification. A city spokesperson sent us this statement:

"Amazon expects to hire up to 1,200 Detroiters and has signed a priority hiring agreement with Detroit at Work. Amazon could have chosen anywhere else. This is great for the city and we're not concerned about the delay, given the fact that the project was announced at the beginning of the pandemic. Amazon has made a tremendous investment and commitment to the City of Detroit and we look forward to the facility's opening."

-- Nicole Sherard-Freeman, Group Executive of Jobs, Economy, & Detroit at Work, City of Detroit

An Amazon spokesperson told 7 Action News the following:

“We have begun initial operations at our fulfillment center in Detroit with the intent of fully launching next year. We’ve hired for various jobs at this facility that include comprehensive benefits. We look forward to continuing our work in the great city of Detroit.”  

-- Austin Stowe, Amazon spokesperson

I asked which positions the company has already hired for in Detroit and the reason for this delay, and did not receive any specifics.

Jobs at the fulfillment center pay between $16-$26 dollars per hour.

This delay in hiring in Detroit comes as the company has announced thousands of layoffs in recent weeks.

During Amazon’s third quarter earnings call to investors in late September, a company executive talked about taking actions to “tighten our belt,” including hiring pauses. Michigan was not mentioned specifically on the call.

Frank and Karen, who helped start the State Fair Development Coalition years ago before the Amazon deal was even on the table, said they always wanted to see development of the State Fairgrounds, but development they feel is right for everyone in the city and its neighborhoods.

The site was vacant from 2009 until Amazon started building in 2020. An effort to save a historic bandshell headed for demolition on the site was successful; it's slated to be rehomed in nearby Palmer Park however that project too is slightly behind.

Karen said she wants to make sure the millions promised over 10 years from this fulfillment center, benefit everyone.

“Folks on the east side of Woodward are expecting development in their neighborhoods promised by the city and nothing has happened for them,” she said.