Amazon requests waiver on some local labor requirement for construction on new Gates facility

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Amazon is seeking a waiver on part of the local labor requirement for the building of the multi-million square-foot Amazon facility in the town of Gates.

According to Monroe County’s Director of Planning and Development Ana Liss, Amazon is seeking a 30% waiver. There will be 1,600 local construction jobs with possibly 400 non-local, 85% union.

The project includes 100 acres of land at 2600 Manitou Road. The facility will be a more than two million square-foot warehouse and distribution center. The projected cost is $412 million.

Construction plans call for utility installation, roadway improvements, landscaping, parking, and loading areas and was estimated to create 1,000 local full-time jobs.

In an April 20 meeting with COMIDA — County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency — Liss told the board Amazon requested a waiver from local labor requirement connected to tax breaks.

“We tentatively will be entertaining a request from Trammell Crow and Amazon regarding local labor at the May meeting,” Liss said during that April meeting.

According to Liss, the positives of granting the waiver will increase the capital investment of the project by $100 million, however the downside is concerns about local labor.

“I’m not going to sign off on this if they’re seeking a blanket waiver, I’m not signing off on that, that requires board input board approval and of course I’ll be briefing this board once entities come to me with vetted evidence,” Liss added.

Amazon officials said they are concerned the scale of the need to pour concrete will exhaust local labor.

“It does not feel like they are working in the sense to try to get most local labor,” COMIDA Board Member Jay Popli said. ‘It feels like to me they’re trying to work around it and how do we do it.”

Liss said for Amazon, the incentive to not use local labor comes down to dollars and cents.

Popli said COMIDA has been clear in their expectations from the start.

“They came with the idea that we’re going to give them these benefits and they’re going to use local labor. Otherwise, why are we doing this? Then we’re just giving away the farm and we’re not getting nearly the benefits. I think we were very transparent: you request these benefits, these are our rules, and what they’re saying is, ‘we’ll just see about that.'”

Amazon officials shared the following statement:

“Amazon has a variety of projects in various stages across the U.S. and we are proud to support the creation of job opportunities for residents in those areas, even before our operations facilities launch. During the construction process, our developers and general contractors use an open bid process available to any qualified party who shows interest in a project; this includes both non-union and union, local, regional, and national contractors with the relevant experience and expertise. As always, we follow all local and state labor policies and processes.”

“I don’t understand why this is difficult,” Popli said. “Every project I’ve been involved in that is  fraction of this size has a schedule then we can legitimately say what is coming up and what is needed.”

Liss said the matter will be discussed further at the May 18 meeting. She said they are waiting for an evidence-based request from Amazon showing they may have issues fulfilling the local labor requirement.

Amazon Spokesperson, Jenna Hilzenrath released the following statement:

“Amazon is a dynamic business and we are constantly exploring new locations. We weigh a variety of factors when deciding where to develop future sites to best serve customers, however, we have a policy of not commenting on our future roadmap.”

Liss released the following statement:

We at COMIDA – myself, our Board of Directors, and staff – and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello’s administration are proud of our local labor policy. Construction workers in our region should be awarded jobs that are incentivized by the Industrial Development Agency. Local jobs should stay with our local workforce whenever possible. Amazon.com LLC’s developer and capital partners signed off on this policy when they submitted their application to COMIDA and acknowledged as such when the Board considered the project for incentives. For that reason, those stakeholders must come back to our Board with any amendment. 

COMIDA’s monitoring of our local labor policy is robust and includes third-party auditing and an exemption processor. All applicants must provide the project monitor and the exemption processor thorough information about bidding and awarding of construction contracts and comprehensive information about the number, type, and duration of each construction position. 

In some instances, use of 100% local labor may not be possible for (4) reasons: 

  1. Warranty issues related to installation of specialized equipment whereby a manufacturer requires installation by only approved installers; 
  2. Specialized construction is required and no local contractors have the necessary certifications or training to perform the work;
  3. Significant cost differentials in bids whereby use of local labor significantly increases the cost of the project; and/or
  4. No local labor is available for the project.

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