FARGO — A milestone has been reached in the past few weeks as walls of a massive 1.3 million-square-foot Amazon Fulfillment Center in north Fargo are going up.
Construction on the $100 million to $120 million building, the largest in the city and thought to be the biggest in North Dakota, will continue throughout the winter. It's been a blessing for many construction workers, especially during the tough pandemic year of 2020, according to Jason Ehlert, president of the North Dakota Building Trades Unions.
He said as many as 300 union workers will be on site at peak times when steel and roof work begins, joining those pouring concrete and doing electrical work. Off and on in recent months, there have been 50 to 100 workers on site.
Ehlert said the main contractor, Ryan Companies of Minneapolis, has also hired many local workers and sub-contractors to help with the project on 110 acres of land north of Hector International Airport and east of Interstate 29.
He said crews are currently doing what the industry calls a "tip up" of the pre-cast concrete walls, and that will be followed by steel and iron work. Once the roof is in place, the concrete will be poured inside the building.
Concrete can be poured at almost any temperature now, Ehlert said, due to the advances in technology and the chemicals used. He said the ground is heated and then, after the pouring, it's covered until it cures.
Amazon is planning to enclose the building first, he said, and pour the interior concrete with the exterior work to be done starting in the spring.
Amazon doesn't verify any construction updates and won't in the future, said public relations spokeswoman Samantha Fernandez.
That is in step with how the company didn't officially announce its project until Oct. 30, more than two months after work started on the site and permits and zoning were approved by the Fargo City Commission without the naming of the company involved. That simply led to speculation before the official announcement was made.
Fernandez added, though, that the company is "very much looking forward to opening their first fulfillment center in North Dakota next year and creating 500 full-time jobs."
Workers at the center will pack and ship large customer purchases such as sports equipment, patio furniture, fishing rods, pet food, kayaks, bicycles and other household goods. The company said it delivers a wide variety of products, including from more than 2,000 small and medium-sized businesses and independent authors in North Dakota.
The company will start looking for workers in the spring or early summer, said City Strategic Planner Jim Gilmour, who worked with the company on the issues involved in starting the project. He said they obviously can't wait until the center opens to hire that many workers.
The city is calling the Amazon facility "Project Force."
The company said in an earlier statement that it will be offering an industry-leading minimum starting wage of $15 per hour, with full-time employees receiving medical, vision and dental insurance and a 401(k) with 50 percent company match starting on the first day of employment. The company also offers up to 20 weeks of maternal and parental paid leave and programs giving new parents flexibility in scheduling. They also offer a program that provides 95% of tuition for courses related to in-demand fields.
The two-story, 40-foot-high building will be larger than Fargo's West Acres Regional Shopping Center, which is about 900,000 square feet, and the Case IH manufacturing facility, which is around 660,000 square feet. A building permit indicates the Amazon facility will have 52 exits and 15 bathrooms.
A larger facility is planned for Sioux Falls, although its facility isn't scheduled to open until 2022.