Amazon fulfillment center brings economic opportunity, union angst to Windsor

NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)–Amazon is building a new fulfillment center in North Haven. The warehouse is expected to create nearly 2,000 jobs. The first Amazon fulfillment center in New England opened in Windsor in 2015.

For Windsor mayor Don Trinks, securing the center was the crowning moment of his 16-year career.

“I will probably remember as long as I live getting that phone call,” he said. “I was sitting on my back porch pacing and the phone rang and all he said was it’s a go.”

He suddenly found himself thrust into negotiating with a corporate giant.

Related: Work underway on North Haven Amazon fulfillment center

“It’s become part of our identity and it’s also been good for bringing in other businesses who think if Amazon can go through their due diligence and pick Windsor, then maybe that’s the place for us,” Trinks said.

The fulfillment center brought more than 1,500 jobs to Windsor, and that impact has trickled down to existing businesses like Jim’s Pizza.

“The biggest order we got from Amazon was 180 sheet pizzas in two days in four different shifts. I had to borrow pizza pans. I had to buy new pizza pans. I had to maneuver storage in my coolers for all the cheese,” said owner Pat Nikolas.

She now gets orders from Amazon five days a week.

“Amazon just ordered! 28 dollars. So now that’s just going to the security people,” she said.

In the shadow of the fulfillment center, Four Seasons Landscaping now has a semi-permanent base.

“On the snow removal part of it, we’ve probably added about 10 people,” said Bob St. Jacques.

He says those people wouldn’t be needed if not for their contract with Amazon.

But local unions worry the fulfillment centers attract many low-paying jobs.

“Members that we do represent already in the retail sector are concerned that they are driving the wages down — and so we don’t want to see that,” said Lori Pelletier, AFL-CIO Connecticut President.

A recent study by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute found that while Amazon warehouses boost warehouse and storage jobs, they actually don’t help overall employment, and don’t warrant the tax breaks towns give them.

Windsor, for example, is giving up almost $4 million in tax revenue to Amazon, money the mayor says will be quickly recovered.

“To us, the benefits to the 29,000 people of Windsor is over a million — a million and six in new tax revenue every year,” said Trinks.

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