In August of 2021, the Augusta County Board of Supervisors approved a rezoning for building a 1 million-square-foot warehouse in Fishersville.
Over the next few months, residents wondered what company would build there in what Augusta County Administrator Tim Fitzgerald joked Wednesday morning was the “worst kept secret in town.” Gov. Glenn Youngkin ultimately revealed in February 2022 the plans for an Amazon fulfillment center at 32 Trader Road.
On Wednesday afternoon, county officials and Amazon representatives officially celebrated the center’s launch with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“It’s a great day in Augusta County,” Fitzgerald said.
The center — which officially opened on April 30 — is primarily responsible for picking, packing and shipping larger items such as furniture or outdoor equipment to customers.
The opening of the Fishersville operation comes at a time when Amazon has made more headlines for scaling back its real estate footprint than growing it. The e-commerce titan invested heavily in industrial space when demand was soaring at the peak of the pandemic before taking its foot off the pedal in the waning years of the global health crisis.
Amazon grew its warehouse footprint by roughly 125 million square feet in 2020 and added another 137 million square feet in 2021, according to logistics consulting firm MWPVL. Last year, the e-commerce titan grew its footprint by just 52 million square feet.
The Fishersville operation took about 18 months to get from approval to opening day, which Fitzgerald noted included setbacks such as a potential tornado going directly through the site.
“There has been much excitement and build-up of anticipation for this moment,” Fitzgerald said. “The truth of it is that I don’t think Augusta County has seen such a fast, efficient and smooth construction operation the likes of Amazon in this county.”
Fishersville’s location joins 10 other Amazon fulfillment centers in the commonwealth of Virginia. The center today employs about 200 employees, but it ultimately aims to have 500 on staff.
Holly Sullivan, Amazon’s vice president of worldwide economic development and public policy, said the economic impact of a center such as this creating so many jobs is significant.
“Out of the employees we’ve hired thus far, 75% of those live within a 30-mile radius,” Sullivan said. “Those are people that are living, shopping, buying cars, renting apartments and buying homes in the regional area.”
Irfaan Hafeez, the Fishersville center’s general manager of operations, said the first few weeks went smoothly at the center, as they started by getting their dayshift operations going before ramping up into the 24-hour operation they are now.
Hafeez praised the center’s rapid growth and Amazon’s onboarding process for new employees.
“You don’t have to have a background in anything,” Hafeez said. “We come and train you. We invest multitudes of weeks of training to teach folks what they need to do to be successful here. Once you start here, the opportunities are endless.”
One benefit Amazon employees enjoy is the company’s Career Choice program, which presents the opportunity to obtain degrees or certificates to advance their careers. Sullivan announced Wednesday morning that James Madison University and Blue Ridge Community College have joined the program.
“We reached out to JMU and Blue Ridge Community College and brought them into our program,” Sullivan said. “We’re really excited because that’s going to help not only our current employees, but it will also build a pipeline for other companies and industries in the area.”
As the number of employees grows at the center, Fitzgerald said the introduction of Amazon into Augusta County represents a solid development step for the county’s economic development.
“As new industries are brought in, the entire community feels a ripple effect,” Fitzgerald said. “Not only in an increase in the local workforce but in attracting new residents to continue developing a thriving place to call home for businesses and residents alike.”