Amazon expands, drives job and real estate markets

Mega retailer opens fulfillment center in Robbinsville, creates opportunities.

It was a long, hot Wednesday on line as Amazon opened the doors of its Robbinsville fulfillment center. Twenty-somethings in jeans and tees standing next to middle-aged workforce veterans in suits and ties. Several hundred, many there since 6 a.m, all on the hunt for that elusive gig.

The industry-leading retailer was holding what they called, “The World’s Largest Job Fair.” They’re calling it “Amazon Jobs Day.” The goal? To hire 50,000 workers full- and part-time across the country — 1,500 in New Jersey alone where Amazon has several facilities.

“Full-time, steady employment with benefits is like the biggest key for me,” Brick resident Dan Ford said. “It costs almost $400 for me for mediocre benefits, so even if it’s only $11 or $12 an hour, benefits would be a big plus.”

Amazon officials say they expect to fill all their jobs today. It’s an indicator of the economic power that this company has been able to build in its two decades. And it’s not just the job market. As retailers continue to shutter their brick and mortar operations, Amazon has been driving the commercial industrial real estate market in New Jersey. Over 10 million square feet of warehouse space makes them the industry leader by far, says Mike Markey of real estate services firm Colliers International.

“I think we’re going to see the footprint of the typical retail store continue to shrink,” he noted. “There’s still going to be a need for retail storefronts, but I think it’s going to be used in a different fashion where people are either going to go and look at certain things and then order online and have it shipped. Or they’re going to go in and they’re going to order something at the retail store, which will be shipped to home.”

But those retailers aren’t all going away. They’re becoming Amazon competitors now, creating an unprecedented expansion cycle in the industrial real estate market. But Markey says those companies are still playing catch up.

“We’ve had any number of clients that we’ve represented over the last couple of years who will ask us right off the bat, where’s the closest Amazon facility?’” he said. “They want to know because many of them don’t want to be near Amazon. They don’t want to compete for the labor and they don’t want to be in an overly congested area from a flow of goods in and out.”

Markey says that while most expansions like this last for 24 to 36 months, the current cycle in the industrial real estate market is in its fifth year. E-commerce, believe it or not, is still in its infancy, and he says the status quo could be maintained, without slowing, for another three at least, which is good news for the job and real estate markets.