By Hanna Snyder-Gambini and Paul Hughes Republican-American
WATERBURY — A development group is planning to build a state-of-the-art Amazon distribution facility in the Waterbury/Naugatuck Industrial Park that would boost area and state economic development and create more than 1,000 new jobs, state and local leaders announced Tuesday.
Pennsylvania-based Bluewater Property Group will develop the industrial park with a plan for a distribution facility and the potential for massive job creation, Waterbury Mayor Neil M. O’Leary and Naugatuck Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.
They were joined Tuesday at the Waterbury firehouse at City Hall by state officials who celebrated the announcement and the financial impact it will have on the region and the workforce.
Municipal leaders are still working out details of the deal with Bluewater, and expect a purchase and sale agreement in about two weeks, O’Leary said. He estimates the purchase and development costs to be upward of several hundred million dollars.
According to its website, Bluewater partners work in industrial real estate throughout the Northeast, specializing in the acquisition, development, financing, and leasing of logistics properties.
Amazon.com is an Internet-based retailer that sells books, music, movies, housewares, electronics, toys, and many other goods, either directly or as the middleman between other retailers and Amazon.com’s customer base, which numbers in the billions. Founded in Washington state by Jeff Bezos in 1994, Amazon.com had a revenue of $386 billion in 2020.
The Waterbury/Naugatuck Industrial Park is more than 150 acres in both the city and borough, and both municipalities will reap the benefits of the project through the sale agreement, tax revenue, job creation and economic development.
O’Leary said this facility will most closely mirror a North Haven Amazon fulfillment center that generates about $5 million a year in tax revenue for that town.
Potential tax incentives are also part of the ongoing due diligence and sale negotiations, O’Leary said.
He anticipates the project could be underway by late spring or early summer, and up to two and a half years or more until the facility is operational.
In addition to the 1,000 full-time jobs, O’Leary said the project will also bring several hundred part-time jobs.
Cathy Awwad, executive director of the Northwest Regional Workforce Investment Board, said her group will be active in helping recruit workers not only for the facility, but the planning, construction and other phases of the project.
Waterbury had unemployment rate of 7.2% in December 2021, the third highest local rate in the state, according to the latest monthly jobs report. The unemployment rate in Naugatuck was 5.1% last month.
Rep. Geraldo C. Reyes Jr., D-75th District, said the Amazon distribution center will be about one mile from a census tract in the South End of Waterbury that has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.
“Unemployment there is incredibly high. There are many people who can benefit from those good-paying jobs,” the Waterbury legislator said.
Amazon employees in Connecticut can earn up to $17.75 per hour, according to the company’s online job postings.
Reyes said he is confident the Amazon distribution center will be built.
“This is going to happen. I’m excited. It is on the side of town that I believe needs the biggest jolt. There are a lot building blocks down here in the South End. This would be the crown jewel,” he said.
Rep. Ron Napoli, R-74th District, shared Reyes’ confidence and optimism about the Amazon project moving forward.
“I think it is a game-changer,” he said. “This is going to be very good for Waterbury. It is bringing good-paying jobs. This is going to be a big uplift for our community.”
When the project is ready to proceed to construction, Sen. Joan V. Hartley, D-15th District, the Senate chairwoman of the Commerce Committee, said she and other Naugatuck Valley legislators will be ready to help out with any request for state support.
“I’d say it is all to be continued. This is not a project to let slip through our fingers because this is really important,” she said.
A $2.8 million bond authorization helped run utilities to the site, making it more attractive to potential developers, O’Leary said.
The Naugatuck Valley Regional Development Corporation is leading the project on behalf of both municipalities. Created a year ago by O’Leary and Hess, the group’s focus is on a regional approach to economic development in the valley.
Gov. Ned Lamont said Connecticut is investing in cutting-edge industries like technology and financial services, advanced manufacturing and infrastructure and a strong workforce to compete globally in logistics.
“The investment we’re making in transportation and logistics are going to be transformative for generations to come,” Lamont said.
Also on the horizon is a “last mile” Amazon delivery facility project on East Main Street near Costco in Waterbury that’s weeks away from getting shovels in the ground, O’Leary said.
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said the Waterbury/Naugatuck project will need federal funding and further investments in infrastructure, especially for roads that will see an increase in wear and tear.
U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, said she will continue advocating for federal funding to support this project, and she’s elated to see it moving forward as it will open doors for the middle class and young people in the region.
The proposed Waterbury-Naugatuck project will be subject to various approvals at both the state and local levels, and there will be several opportunities for the public to weigh in, local officials said.