Central New York’s biggest secret is no more. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon dedicated much of his daily COVID-19 briefing Monday to ending the speculation about who will lease the massive warehouse being built in Clay.
"It's our pleasure to announce that our tenant at the Clay warehouse facility is Amazon. We're really happy about this. You can't think restart without thinking about this once in a generation project."
Amazon has long been rumored to be the tenant, but McMahon says they just inked the deal within the past week. He acknowledged the pandemic certainly created some anxiety and delayed the final agreement by a few weeks. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh says Amazon is just the latest tech giant to decide to invest in the Syracuse area, along with JP Morgan Chase and Microsoft.
"When people ask about our economic prospects, most of us feel we had turned a corner; we were on an upward trajectory as evidenced by the investment that we've seen. While the crisis has certainly slowed us down, all of the ingredients are still here."
Work on the 3.8 million square foot, $400 million facility on a former golf course has been underway for months, but county officials and the developer were sworn to secrecy.
The news isn’t likely to please critics of Amazon, who accuse the company of mistreating its employees. Some warehouse workers were fired after protesting working conditions, especially during the pandemic. More than 100 warehouses reported COVID-19 cases, and one worker at Amazon’s Staten Island facility died of the disease. In a video message played at the briefing, Regional Director of Operations Anand Mehta never acknowledged the strife, but seemed to go out of his way to promote the company’s worker benefits.
"At Amazon, we want to help our employees get the skills they need for today's and tomorrow's most in- demand jobs. All associates go through hours of safety training and coaching. Last year, Amazon pledged to invest more than $700 million to provide workforce development and training opportunities for more than 100,000 US employees."
Mehta says that, along with up to 95 percent prepaid tuition for certain courses will help amazon employees move up the ladder or to careers outside the company. County Executive McMahon says he’s confident Amazon will be a good neighbor, and live up to its promises. When its finished in September of 2021, the robotic fulfillment center will employ about 1,000 people, and is expected to create numerous spin-off businesses.
COVID-19 STILL A REALITY
Meanwhile, there was some sobering news about COVID-19, as another life was lost in Onondaga County over the past 24 hours. That brings the death toll to 103. The state revised weekend fatalities from three to 12 to include deaths at nursing homes. Sixty-seven people are hospitalized, more than any other time during the pandemic. But it's still a small fraction of the area's capacity. Sixteen are critical.