It appears Amazon is making moves to set up physical locations in a pair of cities along Interstate 29.
The massive online retailer is building a distribution center in Sioux Falls, S.D. According to KELO-TV, a CBS affiliate in Sioux Falls, a building encompassing four stories and two million square feet will be constructed. It could employ 1,000 people.
Turns out the company hired to build the facility in Sioux Falls and one in Tucson, Ariz., also has purchased land in Fargo. Although there is no word yet on what will be built at the site, it’s easy to draw an educated guess that Amazon is considering a facility in southeast North Dakota.
Amazon, for its part, responded to a Forum Communications inquiry by saying that the company doesn’t “provide information on our future roadmap.”
If the guess about Fargo is correct, it shows a sudden interest from Amazon in setting up distribution centers in the region.
Our response? Amazon should consider the northern Red River Valley, and specifically Grand Forks.
Sure, it’s rather close to Fargo but Grand Forks has plenty to offer the retail giant nonetheless.
Ample available space: Why build new when so much space already exists here? Reports earlier this year said Amazon is interested in converting abandoned buildings into warehouse space, including former shopping malls and buildings that previously housed large retailers. Grand Forks has plenty to offer; the Columbia Mall continues to see vacancies, mounting on top of continued retail losses, including Sears.
There also is building space available at Grand Forks International Airport, which could offer easy access to the airport’s infrastructure.
Available workers: Amazon previously had a support center in Grand Forks, employing some 500. The company later decided to allow its Grand Forks employees to work from home; how many of those workers are still in the area is tough to track, but that past support center could mean many people with an Amazon background already are here.
Also, the community’s loss of retail and, potentially, restaurant workers means the city has – for the first time in a while – a potentially large and available force of workers. Unemployment in Grand Forks County is up; in July, unemployment was 5.7%, up from traditional numbers around 2%. Earlier this month, there were more than 800 continued unemployment claims. That’s down from a high of more than 3,000 during the first weeks of the pandemic but still considerably more than pre-pandemic numbers, when the average was about 350.
UAS connection: Grand Forks is an established hub for the unmanned aerial system, or drone, industry. Amazon has been clear in recent years about its interest in drone delivery systems and the FAA recently approved Amazon’s Prime Air division as an “air carrier,” which means the company can begin commercial drone deliveries.
It’s likely that regular drone delivery service is still years away as the company fine-tunes the process and jumps through regulatory hoops, but in the meantime, why not work out the kinks here, in the drone capital of the Midwest?
Yes, Grand Forks has much to offer – a modern airport, workers, space and proximity to drone technology.
So, Amazon: Why not?