Amazon facility in Otay Mesa eyes summer completion
Amazon’s massive distribution center in Otay Mesa could be completed by this summer and provide up to 1, jobs.
The Seattle-based retail giant has been constructing the million-square-foot facility on Otay Mesa Road for more than a year. It will be one of the largest buildings ever constructed in San Diego County and part of the rapid industrialization of Otay Mesa.
Amazon has yet to confirm or mention the facility. However, real estate tracker CoStar has verified the retailer is the owner through grant deeds and other research. There is also an Amazon shipping container, with a large image of the company’s logo, used as an office at the job site.
County officials, and CoStar, estimate the distribution center will open sometime in June. Roughly 1, jobs will be created at the facility, according to a market study for San Diego County by Meyers Research.
Amazon did not respond to comments, nor did the Atlanta-based company constructing the facility, Seefried Industrial Properties. According to its website, Seefried has built facilities for Amazon in Wisconsin, Illinois and other places across the nation.
Public records say Amazon paid $ million for the acre site in March. This week, hundreds of workers could be seen constructing the northern half of the building, while traffic snarled around it as cars were pushed to one lane to make way for road improvements. The project site,farther away from most of Otay Mesa’s office space, almost looks like a small city that has popped up near rolling green hills.
For promoters of the region, the Amazon facility is another sign that Otay Mesa’s time has come. Alejandra Mier y Teran, executive director of the Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce, said the region has benefited from increased manufacturing production in Baja California, being one of the last places for industrial land in San Diego County and, now, the massive growth of online retailers needing storage.
“It is exciting to see all the development and jobs being created,” she said. “Our companies are actually hiring. We are excited to contribute to San Diego’s economy when it is needed the most.”
Donna Durckel, spokeswoman for San Diego County’s Land Use and Environment Group, said the site was previously vacant. She said 43, square feet of the site will be for office space, with the remaining 3,, square feet for the warehouse.
The Amazon facility is slightly outside the city of San Diego on unincorporated county land — about one mile northeast of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. Much of the built-up in Otay Mesa has been the result of new trade deals that give American and Canadian businesses tax benefits for outsourcing to Mexico instead of Asia. However, a second phenomenon in Otay Mesa is it is the least expensive spot for industrial land and has attracted companies that aren’t focused on the border.
Otay Mesa industrial land in the last 12 months has sold for an average $ per square foot, said CoStar. That is compared to $ per square foot in Sorrento Mesa and $ per square foot in Carlsbad — both areas known for attracting biotech businesses.
San Diego Councilwoman Vivian Moreno, whose district includes Otay Mesa, said the area is often forgotten by many people in the county but shouldn’t because it will become an economic engine. While the Amazon facility is slightly outside San Diego, Moreno noted that the city has made investments to improve Otay Mesa, which have likely made doing business there more favorable to companies.
One thing she cites is a $ million state grant the city was awarded in December to widen and improve La Media Road — aimed at reducing truck congestion on the busy road by the border.
“I think what these companies want to see is a first-class road, a first-class city and a first-class experience,” Moreno said. “That’s where we come in as city representatives and say we need to build these roads. All these infrastructure improvements are not really about today. It’s about what’s going to happen in 20 to 40 years.”
The new jobs at the warehouse come on the heels of San Diego County losing roughly , jobs in a year as of December. Moreno said that shouldn’t take away from the new positions being created at the warehouse.
“Those are 1, families that we are impacting,” she said. “I think one job is tremendous. When you talk about 1,, that changes people’s lives.”
On a national recruiting website, Amazon said workers at its facilities get a starting wage of at least $15 an hour and health benefits start on the first day. That hasn’t stopped a union drive at many facilities with organizers seeking higher wages and increased safety protocols in the warehouse. A union vote started this week at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, which could become the first Amazon union in the United States. That facility, with roughly 5, workers, is bigger than the Otay Mesa warehouse.
Amazon’s warehouse is at the corner of Otay Mesa Road and Enrico Fermi Drive, directly at the entrance of State Route Drivers will be able to rapidly connect to the State Route toll highway or State Route
The facility will benefit from improvements in the area, which have included the conversion of California State Route into a freeway and a $ million ongoing remodel of the border crossing.
There have been several large deals made in Otay Mesa in recent months. Two Southern California companies, Majestic Realty Co. and Sunroad Enterprises, began construction in January on a $ million, acre industrial park. Another one of Otay Mesa’s large industrial buildings, the ,square-foot Piper Ranch Road building, sold to Denver-based Black Creek Group in December for $ million.
Similar to Otay Mesa, the Mexican side of the border has also seen growth thanks to changes from the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, nicknamed “NAFTA ,” which encourages production closer to home. Santa Cruz-based headset manufacturer Poly recently moved production from China to Tijuana, investing $ million and creating 1, jobs — nearly the same amount as Amazon on the U.S. side of the border.
How Amazon ended up in San Diego
A new Amazon office is nestled into San Diego’s Golden Triangle neighborhood, which is home to a budding tech sector, and within shouting distance of both the Pacific Ocean and the University of California San Diego main campus.
Soon, hundreds of engineers and scientists will join the more than Amazonians currently working in the company’s San Diego Tech Hub. Inside the modern, glass and steel structure holding Amazon’s new office, they’ll work on Amazon’s machine learning and data science capabilities. And they’ll add even more brainpower to software teams who are focused on making Amazon.com the safest place to shop online, and integrating Whole Foods and Amazon even more closely. These teams have already played a key role in developing the code behind in-store pick up, where Prime members can order food online, or through Alexa, and pick it up at a convenient Whole Foods store.
As the San Diego teams – which also include Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Amazon Game Studios – continue to grow, they join their colleagues to make up 17 technology hubs outside Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. Spread out across North America, these hubs house more than 17, Amazonians working on new global products and services for Amazon customers.
But, two short years ago, the idea for an office in San Diego existed solely on the pages of Nate Wiger’s “six-pager,” the peculiar internal memo that all big ideas at Amazon must go through before getting the green light.
Wiger is now the General Manager of Amazon’s San Diego office. But in the spring of , he was a senior manager at Amazon Web Services working at the Irvine office. Looking around at the tech talent clustering near UC San Diego and nearby University of California Irvine, he saw an opportunity for Amazon to attract talent that, like him, didn’t want to stray too far from home.
“I went to the UCSD and I’ve lived here for the past 25 years. Ever since graduating from college I knew I needed to do everything in my power to stay here,” said Wiger, who, until recently, telecommuted to Amazon’s Irvine office, which is about an hour’s drive from San Diego.
Wiger’s manager encouraged him to look into the feasibility of opening a San Diego office. The more data Wiger discovered, the more convinced he became that a new tech hub made good business sense.
So, he started to draft his proposal the same way nearly every iconic Amazon business began, including Prime Now and AWS – as a six-pager. To Amazonians, the six-pager is an institution that’s revered but, like final exams, requires a lot of preparation to be done right. Its role is to sharpen proposals by forcing Amazonians to concisely explain their plan, and to thoroughly think through everything they put down on paper.
When Wiger put pen to paper, his plan came to life.
“The more data I pulled, the more obvious it was that San Diego was being overlooked,” Wiger recalled.
“UC San Diego’s computer science program is ranked number eleven in the world. There’s a lower cost of living here than many cities in California. After looking at all the geo-location data, it seemed we’d be missing out if we didn’t open an office here.”
Wiger spent two to three weeks head down, collating data, comparing San Diego with other similar locations, and writing up his six page memo. When it was done, he and his boss flew to Seattle. In an ordinary conference room, they sat down with some of Amazon’s most senior leaders to review the proposal. For about half an hour, people just read, which is standard practice when discussing a six-pager. And then, the questions came.
“The funny thing was, people who weren’t as familiar with San Diego were a little skeptical at first. They kind of thought of it as a beach town with fish tacos,” Wiger said, laughing at the memory.
Wiger and his boss talked about San Diego’s huge biotech and defense tech sectors. They acknowledge that, while it’s a sleeper story to much of the country, people in the region know of San Diego’s reputation as a top-notch technology hub.
Most important to the senior executives, Wiger recalls, was his six-pager’s data points. Once they saw those, San Diego’s Tech Hub became a reality.
“The idea of writing a six-page document that directly leads to opening another office – that’s amazing,” Wiger said. “There’s no other company on the planet that would do that.”
Amazon begins hiring at Otay Mesa facility. Is $15 an hour enough?
Amazon announced this week it has begun hiring roughly 1, workers for its massive fulfillment center in Otay Mesa.
The news release announcing the job search was the first time the online retailer publicly admitted it was behind the million-square-foot facility, which has been under construction for more than a year.
The Amazon jobs will start at a minimum of $15 an hour, said the Seattle company’s press release. Employers across San Diego County have reported difficulty finding workers, resulting in bidding wars for employees. Some businesses, for example, are paying up to $20 an hour for dishwashers. (The minimum wage in San Diego County, for companies with 26 or more employees, is $14 an hour.)
Other companies have offered signing bonuses to entice workers. The Lot, a luxury cinema company with two locations in San Diego, gave signing bonuses as high as $1, as long as an employee committed to at least 90 days of work.
While its hourly wage might not be attractive or competitive,Amazon’s benefits package might be appealing to a worker. Full-time workers get full medical, vision and dental insurance on the first day. They also get a (k) with a 50 percent match.
Phil Blair, executive officer of San Diego staffing agency Manpower, said the starting pay may be an issue for Amazon. He said businesses across San Diego County are struggling to find new employees despite higher pay and benefits.
“If they are paying $15 an hour, that is not enough in this job market,” he said. “The going rate is more like $17, $18, $20 an hour.”
Efforts to get more information from Amazon about how many of the jobs start at $15 an hour were unsuccessful. But, its job posting said there are additional benefits: New hires get a $ bonus if they show proof of COVID vaccination, and it provides programs for workers to learn new skills.
Even with the benefits, Blair noted Amazon warehouse workers are not known for sticking around a long time. A recent New York Times investigation found the retailer has a percent turnover rate each year at its warehouses. It said it loses nearly 3 percent of its warehouse workers each week.
Conditions at the facilities, which have been criticized for being difficult, were thrown into the spotlight last week after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos completed a journey to space with his other company, Blue Origin. In an interview with ABC News after the flight, Bezos thanked Amazon workers and customers for paying for the trip.
“Yes, Amazon workers did pay for this — with lower wages, union busting, a frenzied and inhumane workplace,” wrote Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) on Twitter, “and delivery drivers not having health insurance during a pandemic.”
Amazon said job candidates must be 18 years or older and have a high school diploma, or equivalent. The job listing says shifts are overnight, early morning, day, evening and weekends.
Amazon said in its news release that it would begin hiring for Spanish-speaking workers in the coming weeks. It was unclear if that means Spanish speaking only. The facility’s location near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, where thousands of Mexican workers cross into the United States each day, could benefit from its proximity to Tijuana.
The previously vacant acre site was purchased for $ million earlier this year. Its location is just outside the rapidly industrializing center of Otay Mesa, part of the city of San Diego, in unincorporated San Diego County land.
County records say 43, square feet of the site will be for office space, with the remaining 3,, square feet for the warehouse. While its location is outside the main industrial hub, improvements in the area are likely to benefit the project going forward.
The city was awarded a $ million state grant in December to widen and improve La Media Road — aimed at reducing truck congestion on the busy road by the border. There is also a large remodel of the port of entry underway and several other businesses setting up shop in Otay Mesa.
A large reason for the build-up, aside from cheaper land in this part of the county, is the change to trade deals in North America under the Trump administration. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, nicknamed “NAFTA ,” gives American and Canadian businesses tax benefits for outsourcing to Mexico instead of Asia. The change means companies need storage facilities for goods built in Mexico to be shipped all over North America.
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Link to Amazon’s job website: https://www.amazon.jobs/en/
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