NAMPA — Amazon’s new Nampa fulfillment center is a maze of yellow and silver conveyor belts.
Construction on the 650,000-square-foot fulfillment center, the first in Idaho, began last fall, and the facility is scheduled to open later this year around the holiday season, according to General Manager Tim McIntosh.
The building has four floors, in total equaling the size of about 11 football fields, McIntosh said. The first floor houses miles of conveyor belts for processing and packaging orders to be sent to delivery trucks stationed outside.
Spiraling metal conveyor belts lining the walls will transport items from the second, third and fourth floors down to the first floor.
The center will distribute small and medium-sized items, which Amazon spokeswoman Anne Laughlin said can range from an iPhone case to a small household appliance.
The facility will be able to store about 40 million items and process hundreds of thousands of orders a day, McIntosh said.
About 2,000 people will work at the fulfillment center, which will make it Nampa’s largest employer. The company in 2018 announced a $15 minimum wage for all U.S. employees. The Nampa fulfillment center plans to cover 95% of the cost of tuition for employees to continue their education, the city’s economic development director, Beth Ineck, said in December.
Amazon, the nation’s second-largest private employer, has faced criticism nationwide over working conditions, including safety concerns during the pandemic.
McIntosh said the top priority for Amazon is to keep its employees safe and follow the health guidelines for COVID-19 prevention, including social distancing and wearing masks.
Approximately a third of Amazon’s 150 fulfillment centers nationwide are robotic fulfillment centers, including Nampa’s, McIntosh said. Items will be stored in shelving units that can hold up to 1,050 pounds. Each shelving unit is placed on a robot that can travel any direction on its own based on instructions from staff.
The robots will transfer shelving units with customers’ orders to the perimeter of the floor, where the employees will receive the items and transfer them to the first floor in yellow totes.
“The people are what make sure you’re receiving the right thing,” McIntosh said.
McIntosh would not confirm whether employees would be required to fill a quota of items processed each day, as other Amazon centers have done.
Construction workers are continuing to build the facility and are all wearing masks in and out of the building. McIntosh said everyone, including construction crew members and new employees, must pass screenings that include temperature checks and symptom reviews each time they enter the property.
McIntosh said the facility will also install sanitation stations and have employees wear protective gear. Laughlin previously told the Idaho Press that the center is large enough that employees should be able to maintain social distancing, but it might not always be possible. She said Amazon hired social distancing ambassadors to endorse the health guidelines, but McIntosh said that is not the case at the Nampa center, and instead employees are expected to hold themselves accountable.
“We’re all responsible,” McIntosh said.
The center is expected to generate nearly 7,000 vehicle trips per day during the peak holiday season. Several road projects are planned or are in the works to accommodate the additional traffic. This includes the construction of several traffic lights bordering the building along East Franklin Road, which are currently in progress. Amazon has agreed to help pay for some of these projects and will complete several others on its own.
Nampa’s public works director for transportation Jeff Barnes previously told the Idaho Press that Amazon is expected to invest about $14.2 million into transportation in Nampa, $5.5 million of which went directly to the city for transportation projects.
The center is expected to generate up to $45 million in property taxes for the city of Nampa over the next 20 years.
Though an open date is expected around the holidays, McIntosh did not say whether that would be closer to Thanksgiving or Christmas.