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Amazon’s Growing Presence in Lehigh Valley Provides Opportunities for Employees, Businesses

By Colin McEvoy on October 24, 2018

In a few short years since it opened its first facility in the Lehigh Valley, online retail giant Amazon.com has become one of the region’s largest employers, with more than 3,400 workers at three facilities.

Amazon recently provided state and local officials a behind-the-scenes look at its newest Lehigh Valley location, a 1 million square foot fulfillment center just off Route 33 in Palmer Township, Northampton County. The center, which opened at the start of the 2016 holiday shopping seasons, has 1,100 full-time employees.

Scott Cochran, general manager of the Palmer Township facility, said Amazon’s presence in the Lehigh Valley and in Pennsylvania means much more to the economy than the jobs in its fulfillment centers.

“In addition to the great jobs inside this building, we’ve created thousands of indirect jobs in construction and services,” Cochran said, “and our fulfillment network supports thousands of small businesses, many of them right here in Pennsylvania.”

Amazon’s growth in the Lehigh Valley mirrors its global success. Starting as an online bookseller a little over 20 years ago, it cracked the top 10 of the FORTUNE 500 ranking of the largest U.S.-based companies in 2018, with $178 billion in revenue and 566,000 employees.

The company has a significant presence in Pennsylvania, with 13 fulfillment centers and a technology hub. Since 2011, its Pennsylvania investment has totaled more than $6 billion in fulfillment center infrastructure and employee wages.

“Amazon’s 10,000 employees across Pennsylvania and its massive downstream economic benefits have provided a significant boost to the Commonwealth,” said Dennis Davin, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

The secretary complimented Amazon for embracing workforce development through its Career Choice program, which pre-pays 95 percent of tuition costs for employees who want to improve their job skills.

Career Choice enables Amazon employees to develop skills needed for in-demand jobs, whether those jobs are with Amazon or other employers, Cochran explained. Educational opportunities range from personal development and leadership skills, to certificate programs, to fully accredited college courses. In some cases, depending on the level of interest, courses are taught at Amazon facilities.

About 100 employees at the Palmer Township fulfillment center are among the 12,000 Amazon employees nationwide who have used Career Choice to continue their education.

“Nothing makes us happier than seeing employees succeed, even if that success takes them to jobs with other employers,” Cochran said.

Amazon is part of the fast-growing distribution, logistics and fulfillment sector of the Lehigh Valley economy. The region gives online retailers convenient access to the massive East Coast consumer market. Employment in that sector has increased by 10,000 in the last five years. In 2017, the sector contributed $2.1 billion to the Lehigh Valley’s $40.1 billion in economic output.

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