The first item to arrive into the new Amazon warehouse in Ruskin was a Disney “Frozen” doll of the character Anna ice skating, price $21.99. By this time next week, the warehouse will likely be fully operational and ready to ship out the doll and thousands of other items to customers.
Holiday deliveries will likely come a bit faster this season, compared to last year, as the Ruskin site is getting up and going, with hundreds of new workers arriving this week. Once a third Amazon site comes on line in Florida, the massive online retailer will be able to make Sunday deliveries.
The progress comes after Hillsborough County and the state of Florida offered a string of incentives to Amazon to come into the area, and Amazon agreed to start collecting state sales taxes from customers May 1.
The first Amazon site in Florida opened earlier this summer in the Lakeland area, employing about 500 people to stock and ship relatively larger items like barbecue grills and kayaks.
A second Amazon site in Ruskin will employ upwards of 1,000 people and is geared for smaller items such as books, toys and tools. Besides those who work year-round at warehouses, Amazon will typically add hundreds more temporary workers during the holidays. Some Amazon sites turn into mini campgrounds for workers who choose to park RVs there for the holiday work shifts. Last holiday season, Amazon added 70,000 people to the ranks of 40,000 that normally work in warehouses.
Amazon’s site is inside the South Shore Corporate Park, just west of Interstate 75 and north of State Road 674, in a campus of other warehouse and distribution facilities. Hillsborough County approved economic incentives for Amazon worth more than $6 million over seven years. The state will kick in at least another $900,000 in incentives.
Amazon has not given an official date of when the Ruskin site will become fully operational, but Amazon spokeswoman Nina Lindsey said there is often a one-week period in between when the first items arrive at new warehouses (like the “Anna” doll) to the point when that warehouse can start shipping items out the door to customers.
Tampa may soon be in line to have Sunday package deliveries as well, Lindsey said, because Amazon is building a smaller, third warehouse in the Lakeland area on Deen Still Road that’s a “sortation facility.” Such sites take in packed items from Amazon warehouses like those in Ruskin and Lakeland, and then sort them into groups down to individual zip codes. Trucks then take them directly to individual U.S. Post Offices for Sunday delivery. Such sorting sites allow Amazon to extend the next-day order deadline from 2:59 p.m. to 11:59 p.m.
Last November, Amazon started Sunday deliveries in New York and Los Angeles. In May, Amazon expanded the list to 15 more cities in states including Texas, Ohio, Louisiana, Kentucky, Indiana, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.
Before Amazon opened a warehouse in Florida, the company was in something of a legal limbo here with sales taxes. Internet retailers that do not physically operate in a state often don’t collect sales taxes from customers there, and they rely on third-party shipping companies to deliver goods.
Yet, being at a distance comes with certain costs. Next-day delivery is a key part of Amazon’s “Prime” membership service, and having warehouses closer to customers -- like in Ruskin and Lakeland -- allows Amazon much faster deliveries, including Sunday deliveries.