Amazon primed to land again at Wilmington Air Park

By Gary Huffenberger and John Hamilton - News Journal

WILMINGTON — Amazon is again preparing to land in Wilmington.

The global e-commerce giant, which utilized the Wilmington Air Park beginning in 2016 in a pilot project — but announced the next year it would leave Clinton County for the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport — announced Monday it is making a big return to Wilmington to “open a new air gateway” at the air park.

Amazon is growing its investment in the community here with a gateway for their Amazon Air planes at the air park as it continues to build out its air hub operation at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Amazon Air currently operates out of more than 20 airports across the United States, with Wilmington opening next year. The new operation will include daily flights, and an on-site facility to sort packages bound for their next destination.

“We are excited to bring our Amazon Air operation to KILN while we continue building out our central air hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport,” said Sarah Rhoads, director of Amazon Air. “We are opening an operation in Wilmington to ensure we have the capacity to continue to delight our customers.”

While there was no hard number Monday as to the number of start-up jobs for the Amazon air gateway operations here, Clinton County Port Authority Executive Director Dan Evers said he is anticipating more than 300 new positions at the Wilmington Air Park. He added that the number is yet to be determined, but that is his best guess.

As for a time frame for the operations to begin here, Evers anticipates June or July, “so, mid-summer.”

In October 2018, Amazon announced it would raise the minimum wage for all of its U.S. employees to $15, effective in November 2018.

Evers did not know whether some of the jobs will be part-time.

And whether Amazon’s air cargo operations in Wilmington will be conducted at night or during the day was not known to Evers on Monday. But he did say officials have looked at the operational model both ways.

“I’m not in the position today to say it will be this, but we’ve talked more about one model than the other,” he said.

Once there is a little more framework developed around a couple of operational matters, there will be more information made available, said Evers.

The types of positions anticipated, he said, are air cargo handling jobs on the ramp, distribution and logistics and package handling jobs inside the facility (sorter positions), some mechanical systems maintenance jobs inside and outside the facility, and a need to add some employees in air services and in the air control tower.

Conversations on the air cargo deal began in April.

Applying for jobs

Evers said an announcement about when people can start applying will probably be released shortly after Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, he recommended people be in touch with Clinton County Job & Family Services (CC Works) at 1025 South South Street Suite 500 in Wilmington so that interested people can get “in the queue [line or list].”

Working on details

While Amazon and the Clinton County Port Authority — which owns the air park — have reached an agreement in principle, final details on a contract are still being worked out. Accordingly, Evers on Monday did not have the number of years for the deal which includes Amazon utilizing Building F and Building A at the air park.

Amazon’s announcement is “market validation” for the air park and the greater community, he said.

“When one of the nation’s transformative retailers and businesses says above your community, ‘Yes, this is good enough for us, we choose it’, that’s market validation,” said Evers.

Evers also said that having air cargo return to the air park and community, “and to have that on which we made our name [come] back is consequential, and I think poetically fitting.”

A number of other community and regional leaders and officials saw the announcement as very good news, too.

“Wilmington and Clinton County know air cargo logistics and have experience to support these operations,” said Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition. “The revitalization of this strategic Ohio asset will complement Amazon’s existing operations and leverage a talented, skilled workforce ready to move their products anywhere in the world.”

JobsOhio President and Chief Investment Officer John Minor said, “We appreciate the partnership with Amazon, the Dayton Development Coalition, the Wilmington Air Park, and local officials to bring Amazon Air to this attractive asset. Amazon’s investment demonstrates the continued confidence it has in Ohio’s talent and will boost the long-term value of the Wilmington Air Park for future job creation.”

More local reaction

Wilmington Mayor John Stanforth said, “We are extremely proud and excited to welcome Amazon to Wilmington, Ohio. It speaks volumes about our community that our residents and neighbors will provide the highest value workforce for the company. Our city stands ready to aid in the company’s success, and we are so happy that this opportunity is coming to fruition here.”

Wilmington City Council member and Finance Committee Chairperson Kelsey Swindler told the News Journal this is great news for the city.

“I have to say just how grateful I am to Dan Evers and the Clinton County Port Authority for their tireless work advocating for our air park and our community,” said Swindler. “Businesses like Amazon and BrightFarms investing in Wilmington is a testament to our incredible economic potential.”

Swindler added there’s a lot of work yet to do, but she is certainly heartened by this decision.

Dessie Rogers, executive director of the Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce, says this news speaks volumes of the resilience and skill level both of the workforce and local leadership.

“I’m extremely proud of all the hard work that went into making this happen. We welcome Amazon and look forward to developing this valuable partnership,” said Rogers.

Wilmington City Council member and City Revitalization Committee Chairperson Jonathan McKay said he is excited about the announcement.

“We’ve waited an extremely long time for something like this,” McKay said. “It’s part of the renaissance Wilmington and the county are experiencing since DHL’s leaving.”

Clinton County Commissioner Pat Haley said, “This announcement is wonderful news for Clinton County. Many people have worked very hard for a long time to make this a reality, and we’re excited that this will give the workers of Clinton County an opportunity to get back to work.”

Randy Riley, former Wilmington mayor and former Clinton County commissioner, told the News Journal, “Ten years ago, when DHL announced they were leaving the air park, many folks thought this community would dry up and blow away. Yet, many of us predicted that we would someday rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of the recession.

“Well, not only are we still here, but many local companies are growing and thriving. Now, with the announcement by Amazon that they will be utilizing the air park, jobs and aircraft will again be flying into the community.”

Evers said, “We are extremely grateful that Amazon has made this decision, and the determination that Wilmington, Ohio is a location where the company can have success. We look forward to collaborating with the company, along with our local, regional and state partners, to facilitate this operation’s on-going success.”

By Gary Huffenberger and John Hamilton

News Journal