Tampa Bay area now a major distribution hub

Posted at 5:05 PM, Mar 30, 2016
The center has been up and running for months, but today, now that construction is complete, Amazon held a "grand opening" for their new Ruskin fulfillment center.
The 1.1 million square foot facility is now one of several supply-chain centers in the Tampa Bay area fueling a new local job market, and turning the area into a regional distribution hub.
The Ruskin center will be where almost any small item you buy on Amazon -- movies, toys, electronics, books -- will go through when you buy from the company in Florida.
"Hundreds of robots" keep the massive facility humming - literally - at all times. But the 2,500 people it employs is helping to keep the local economy humming as well.
"When we came here to Ruskin and in Lakeland the labor was very, very good from a hiring standpoint," said Ruskin center General Manager Chris Monnot, who says this part of Hillsborough County was picked by Amazon because of the people.
"They were people that wanted to come in whether they had jobs or didn't have jobs we provided them a very enticing job for them to learn, with benefits, stock options and career program," Monnot said.
Those perks, especially a career program that pays for college classes, is what drew Laura Pelletier to Amazon.
"It just makes it that much more accessible to reach my final goal of finishing my degree," Pelletier told ABC Action News.
Pelletier has been working towards an online degree in human resources, but now says she won't rule out staying in the booming supply chain management field.
"I'm not going to shut the door to working in operations just because I have a human resources degree," said Pelletier. "So it all depends on what opportunities open up."
Amazon is also in the Tampa Bay area because of infrastructure: A good highway system and proximity to Port Tampa Bay has attracted many businesses -- not just Amazon -- to the area.
Here's a list of just some of the distribution centers recently opened:
- 2014: O'Reilly Auto Parts Distribution Center in Lakeland
- 2014: CSX's Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center in Winter Haven
- 2014: Quest Diagnostics's ground fleet monitor center in Tampa
- 2015: Amazon fulfillment facility in Lakeland
- 2016: Amazon fulfillment facility in Ruskin
Gov. Rick Scott was there to take a tour of the Ruskin facility for the "grand opening" and we asked him why he thinks the Tampa Bay area is becoming a distribution hub for the state.
"We've made investments in our ports. Invested $5 billion in the past five years," said Scott, adding that the growing population is also bringing employers here.
"People are moving here. We have 20.3 million people -- that's bigger than New York," he said.