Amazon celebrates its Livonia fulfillment center

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Livonia – Internet retail giant Amazon opened its doors Friday to officials and the media to get a look inside the company’s new regional fulfillment center – the first to open in Michigan.

About 1,000 are employed at the 1 million-square- foot facility at 39000 Amrhein. Workers pick, pack and ship large-sized customer orders. The facility took its first order in October.

Attendees at the grand opening ceremony Friday included Gov. Rick Snyder, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and Livonia Mayor Dennis Wright.

Snyder said the event is about Michigan’s comeback.

“We’re back and we should we proud of that,” he said. “Let’s just talk how we can go to the next level. It’s really a function of everyone working together to create an environment to wonderful companies like Amazon come to our state ... They’re creating good jobs for Michiganders with good benefits.”

Amazon opened a sorting center in Brownstown Township in 2015. A fulfillment center is expected to open in Romulus this year and plans are underway for a center in Shelby Township.

“So many jobs are being created by this company here in our state,” Calley said. “We’re here celebrating this location and it’s just the start. It’s creating opportunity for other companies to have access to new markets in the rest of the world in ways that were then difficult and maybe even impossible to obtain without them.”

Wright noted Amazon’s presence as well as another development, Republic National Distributing Company, which will bring another 1,000 employees to the industrial park near Interstates 96 and 275.

The center is on the former site of the General Motors Spring and Bumper Plant, which had sat empty since the late 1990s.

“We’re excited that so many businesses are choosing Livonia for our great public services, prime location, low taxes and exceptional police and firefighters,” he said.

Evans, who called himself an “Amazon Prime freak” said he buys everything from Amazon.

“Being close to home for me, this is absolutely great,” he said.

He thanked DTE Energy for building a power plant for the facility. He also thanked Wright and other mayors in the county for working toward economic development.

Amid his comments, Evans thanked the governor for his support of a regional transit authority. A proposed regional mass transit millage has been a hot-button issue, with Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel saying they oppose it because they have not seen a master plan.

“One of the things we’ve learned is to continue to grow we have to provide the resources for that growth...” Evans said. “We can’t be the worst in the country on transit and the best on everything else. It just doesn’t work that way. I think we’re getting there.”

On Friday, workers in Livonia made their way through aisles of tall shelving units filled with merchandise as some packed items for shipment. The facility uses the latest in technology, including fueling warehouse vehicles with hydrogen fuel.

“We used to use batteries in our facilities,” said Shawn Westlund, general manager of the facility. “It would take eight hours to charge a piece of equipment with a battery. We can fill that to last the whole shift in five minutes. It’s clean. It’s more efficient. There’s no emissions.”

Amazon’s investment in the product distribution hub has been estimated at nearly $90 million, including construction, machinery, equipment and other improvements.

Michigan won over the Seattle-based company after competing with Ohio and Indiana for the largely automated facility.

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