After years of secrecy, the cat is out of the bag. Lakeland Linder International Airport will soon house one of the largest Amazon facilities in the southeast.
City leaders and airport officials had to keep the proposed deal under wraps due to Amazon’s concerns about competition and other issues.
The hub promises to bring up to a thousand new jobs to the airport.
Airport director Gene Conrad says municipalities up and down the I-4 corridor have been licking their chops, hoping for an opportunity to house such a facility.
“My understanding is they were looking at several airports here in central Florida, all the way up to Sanford, Orlando International, Tampa,” said Conrad. “Even Brooksville is my understanding.”
Conrad believes the thing that sweetened the deal for Amazon is Lakeland had already had plans in place to improve its infrustructure, hoping to lure a large business or perhaps a repair facility to the airport.
“I’ve gotten asked quite a few times, ‘what incentives did you give them?’ Our incentive was we were able to entice them here because we were already this far ahead on our work. To have the infrustructure in place and have the site ready to go for them,” said Conrad. “‘Cause if they didn’t come, we had plans to do other things here.”
Only three people showed up at the city council meeting to voice their concerns or support for the facility.
One gentleman praised the council on attracting Amazon. Another woman questioned whether city leaders know what this will mean in the long run. Rachelle Smith expressed concern over traffic in the area.
“Amazon and the City of Lakeland and the county commissioners have a problem they really need to fix,” said Smith. “There is a portion of Pipkin Road between Harden Boulevard and South Florida Avenue that backs up every day, multiple times a day whether you’re coming from South Florida Avenue or you’re going from Harden Boulevard.”
Under the 20-year deal, Amazon will lease nearly 50 acres on airport property and construct a 7-jet cargo hanger.
The internet giant also has the option to expand on an adjacent piece of property. The company will pay the city in the neighborhood of $80,000 a month in rent.