E-commerce powerhouse amazon.com inc. has named California’s San Bernardino International Airport as its western air freight hub in a move that is expected to bring thousands of jobs to the former Air Force base when the facility opens in 2021, and to expand Amazon’s shipping might at a time when the global air freight sector is gasping for breath amid Covid-19 travel bans and economic shutdowns.
Seattle-based Amazon says the investment will help it provide fast shipping to online shoppers. The site is expected to serve as the company’s western air mail stronghold, complementing its current operations at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport, where Amazon is in the midst of building a massive, $1.5 billion expansion that is also expected to open in 2021.
“Our new Regional Air Hub at SBD International Airport allows us to better deliver on our commitment of fast, free shipping for our customers,” Sarah Rhoads, vice president at Amazon Global Air, said in a release. “The Regional Air Hub is being built from the ground up to fit Amazon Air’s operational needs, including the use of solar power and electric ground support equipment. We look forward to opening the facility in 2021.”
Located some 60 miles east of Los Angeles and within 30 minutes of more than two million people, the former Norton Air Force Base was converted to civilian use in 1992 and later became certified as a commercial airport by the FAA, the airport says. Amazon Air will become the site’s latest aviation tenant, joining over 75 other companies operating at the airport.
According to airport officials, Amazon’s facility will include a 658,500-square-foot building, two 25,000-square-foot maintenance buildings, about 2,000 employee parking spaces, and 380 trailer parking spaces. That infrastructure will support a planned volume of 12 daily flights during first year, rising to some 26 daily flights by year five. And in turn that business will support an estimated 1,700 jobs in the first year of operation—including pilots, aircraft support services, and logistics teams—and rise to nearly 3,900 jobs by year five.
Although Amazon did not disclose the cost of the investment it is planning to make in the site, the timing of the announcement shows that the web-based giant has not been as economically crippled as many other business sectors during the coronavirus-based recession.
Firms in many other sectors have filed for bankruptcy and laid off millions of American workers as the U.S. unemployment rate has jumped from a 50-year low of 3.5% in February to 14.7% this week. At the same time, business providing essential goods like groceries and cleaning products have seen demand for their products rise to levels historically only seen at the winter holiday peak shopping season.
“We are excited to realize a long-term goal of offering air cargo operations at our airport, just as Norton Air Force Base did at this location for decades,” Michael Burrows, executive director of SBD International Airport, said in a release. “We are pleased to invite Amazon Air to initiate cargo operations alongside other partners at our new cargo facility to benefit local residents and contribute to the region’s job growth and economic recovery.”
Our VP of Amazon Global Air Sarah Rhoads recalls her most memorable customer experience from the holiday season - a just-in-time overseas delivery. More highlights from Peak here: https://t.co/z6dihIceqD pic.twitter.com/tSNDzfui5c— Amazon News (@amazonnews) December 2, 2019