POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Amazon is continuing its love affair with Polk County.
It opened a new fulfillment center in Auburndale, its second in the county. The first, in Lakeland, opened in 2014.
Both facilities offer 500 jobs. Wages start at $15/hour.
Auburndale’s fulfillment center is located near I-4 and Florida Polytechnic University on C. Fred Jones Blvd.
“We’re really trying to create that business environment and what we’re calling an ‘innovation district’ in that area,” said Amy Palmer, Auburndale’s community development director.
In the county with Tampa Bay’s highest unemployment rate, it’s also putting people back to work.
A virtual job fair, dubbed Amazon’s “Career Day,” aimed to hire 33,000 company-wide on Wednesday.
“Amazon continues to hire people and put people to work while others are letting go,” said Sean Malott, president of the Central Florida Development Council.
Critics say the working conditions in Amazon facilities are strenuous, with high demands on the rate at which workers must pull items.
Amazon is led by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos.
“He’s gotten that way off the backs of the working men and women in this country,” said Shawn McDonnell, president of the West Central Florida Labor Council. “When you start paying benefits out of that $15 an hour for healthcare, retirement, things along those lines, that $15/hour shrinks pretty fast.”
“I think it’s probably changed significantly from when they first started opening facilities. They want to be a place that attracts high quality work force,” said Malott.
When it comes to size, Amazon ranks in Polk County’s top 25 employers, according to Malott.
“Very quickly, they’ve become a major tenant and property owner with about 3.5 million square feet within the county,” he said.
Amazon has doubled its presence in the county this year.
Amazon launched its “Amazon Air” operation at Lakeland Linder International Airport in July.
It is also set to open its sixth property in Polk County, a delivery station in Lakeland, by the end of the year.
“The new station will power Amazon’s last-mile delivery capabilities to speed up deliveries for customers in the Lakeland metro area. Delivery stations enable Amazon Logistics to supplement capacity and flexibility to Amazon’s delivery capabilities,” a statement from the company reads.
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