Amazon picks Charles County for new local delivery warehouse

UPDATE: On Monday evening, June 21, the Charles County Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the initial site development plan for the warehouse property being eyed as the site of the new Amazon regional delivery center, following a lengthy discussion during which several commissioners expressed concern about the suddenness and speed of the project and its potential impacts on local traffic.

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Amazon has leased a trio of Waldorf industrial properties to serve as the site of a regional warehouse and distribution facility that will provide last-mile package delivery to the region. Expected to open in time for the 2020 winter holiday season, the facility will provide an estimated 200 full-time, part-time, and seasonal warehouse and delivery jobs.

The Charles County government announced the deal last week following confidential negotiations that began in September, according to a county press release. The “delivery station” is one of seven that Amazon plans to open across Maryland; the other locations are in Edgewood, Glen Burnie, Hagerstown, Hanover, Lanham, and Upper Marlboro. According to WJZ the jobs are expected to pay $15 an hour.

Amazon will lease the three properties, which total nearly 32 acres in the Waldorf Industrial Park, from Rockville real estate company Kaz Brothers, L.C. A 191,700-square-foot warehouse at the end of Jay Gould Lane, unoccupied since 2010, will be refurbished as the main storage and processing facility. An adjacent nine-acre parcel fronting Industrial Park Drive will be completed as an employee parking lot. A 91,000-square-foot open truck bay on Carnegie Court will be used for delivery vehicle storage.

County redevelopment manager Taylor Yewell told TLR that the county’s economic development department has been in communication with Amazon since the county’s long-shot bid for the site of the company’s second headquarters facility several years ago, which was ultimately awarded to Crystal City, Virginia.

“I think Amazon found that Charles County was a very strategic location to serve Southern Maryland,” Yewell said. “And we were lucky to the point where we had just the right size warehouse facility.”

Yewell believes the warehouse facility, which was built in 1988, is the largest of its kind in the county.

Amazon has been working with the county’s planning and growth management department on an expedited permit process, which the county has in place to take advantage of sudden opportunities like this one, to ensure the company is able to erect and refurbish the facilities, hire and train personnel, and have everything in place to meet the demand for package delivery during the coming winter holiday season.

The county does not have any details at this time about the number of jobs that Amazon will be bringing, but according to the Baltimore Business Journal the seven delivery stations will generate up to 1,400 new jobs, which translates to around 200 jobs per facility.

Yewell said that as the project progresses, the county will explore opportunities for partnerships with local institutions that can offer assistance with training. The College of Southern Maryland, for example, has a commercial truck driver training program that might benefit Amazon employees.

Local entrepreneurs may also benefit from Amazon’s Flex program, which hires independent delivery drivers at $18-$25 an hour.

Yewell said that although logistical operations like the Amazon parcel warehouse are not one of the industries that the county’s economic development department has been targeted for moving or expanding to the county, it was an opportunity that could not be passed up.

“We don’t have a lot of these types of opportunities because we don’t have a lot of big warehouse spaces like this in Charles County to speak of,” Yewell said. “[This arrangement] reactivates a building, it regenerates a tax base, and it brings jobs to Charles County. So, whereas it might not be a target industry as identified in our five-year strategic plan, we embrace it.”

“This is really … just the beginning of [Amazon’s] presence here and of their economic and fiscal impact on the county,” Yewell said.

Economic development deputy director Marcia Keeth added that the Amazon delivery station project is a good example of the county’s desire to diversify the local economy.

“Target industries give us something to focus on, but that doesn’t mean it’s all we want,” Keeth said. “A standalone project like this compliments all of our other efforts on the target industries.”

“The more diversity in the economy, the better,” Keeth said.

illustration: Maryland Department of Planning parcel viewer, with annotations