Amazon’s first ‘help wanted’ signs in Johnston

Posted 4/17/24

Can you operate with “significant autonomy and discretion,” “work all shifts, including nights, weekends, and holidays” and “some overnight shifts as necessary”?

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Amazon’s first ‘help wanted’ signs in Johnston


Can you operate with “significant autonomy and discretion,” “work all shifts, including nights, weekends, and holidays” and “some overnight shifts as necessary”?

If so, you may be a candidate for Loss Prevention Manager (LPM) at Johnston’s Amazon facility. The company publicly posted four open positions in the last week, looking to hire the building’s first managers. Town officials are hoping the other 1,496 hirings will follow soon after.

“Progress at our Amazon Robotics fulfillment center in Johnston continues,” Amazon Spokesman Steve Kelly wrote via email Friday, April 12. “We have started the initial hiring process for operations-based leadership positions at the facility — which remains on track to launch in time for the 2024 holiday season.”

Help Wanted

By Wednesday, April 17, four Amazon positions in Johnston were listed and live on (a searchable job posting website). The four management positions included Area Manager II, Operations Manager, Senior Human Resources (Sr HR) Manager, and the most recent listing, LPM. The listings provided no pay information but identified all four jobs as full-time.

“We are excited to see Amazon begin their hiring process,” said Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena Jr. “They are starting to post management positions now. I’m told non-management positions will be posted at some point in the summer or fall, prior to opening.”

Amazon representatives attended a public hearing last week to renegotiate the company’s tax deal with the town following construction delays at their Hartford Avenue facility. Polisena and his administration worked out a deal with Amazon (subsequently approved by Town Council), agreeing to a reduction in payments of more than $618,000 after the online mega-retailer invoked a construction clause in its contract with the town.

“The initial hiring of management I do not think is a good or bad sign but rather part of the process of ramping up to get operational,” said Johnston Town Council President Robert V. Russo.

A Start

Amazon has promised to bring 1,500 jobs to Johnston. They were initially forecast to open last year, but the ribbon-cutting has been delayed several times. When it signed a Community Partnership Agreement (CPA) with Johnston, Amazon promised to host job fairs locally, and the town’s local politicians hoped Johnston residents would get first crack at submitting applications.

“Implementation of managerial positions is a sign that the structure for hiring general personnel is on the horizon,” Russo said. “This is a large-scale project and process and in spite of some delays I am confident a larger-scale hiring process will start in the summer or fall.”

Last week’s Town Council vote frees up the initial $5.7 million payment from Amazon, covering the first annual payment of the 20-year Tax Stabilization Agreement (TSA).

“Amazon issued their initial payment to the town in spite of some naysayer doomsday statements over social media,” Russo said earlier this week. “I try to think positive and hope the momentum to door-opening continues. Once again, Johnston will be leading the way to jobs and economic prosperity in the state.”

Like Pulling Teeth

Updates on the impending Amazon opening have been rare. Amazon has only publicly addressed town residents once, at the inking of the CPA. Company representatives attended last week’s public hearing on the renegotiated tax deal but did not speak during public session.

“As of this date I still have received no word from the Mayor or his administration on the status of Amazon and their opening,” said Ward 5 Town Councilman Robert J. Civetti. “I guess the fact that they are beginning the hiring process is a sign that they are moving closer towards opening the facility. I would like to stay optimistic that Amazon will still be employing about 1,500 people and that a job fair will be held for Johnston residents as was promised to the taxpayers of Johnston.”

Once the facility opens, $9 million in Route 6 (Hartford Avenue) road improvements outside the facility will be put to the test, as those 1,500 projected employees commute to work and merchandise ultimately starts arriving and departing from the $290 million five-story 3.8 million-square-foot “robotic fulfillment center.”

“I did not see the four job postings you referenced, but once again I am hoping that Amazon gives Johnston residents the first opportunity to fill these positions,” Civetti said. “I understand that these positions are important management-type positions. However, if Amazon has qualified Johnston residents competing for these positions I would hope that Amazon takes the town residency into consideration.”

Past Promises

In September 2021, Amazon estimated it would likely hire around “1,350 full-time associates, starting at $18 hourly wages, plus healthcare, dental and 401K benefits.” Amazon also projected hiring 10 managerial, technical and operational oversight jobs with estimated $60,000 annual managerial salaries.

Overall, the facility’s new employees’ compensation may total as much as $57,000,000 in “new annual payroll created,” once it the facility is open and “operational.” Former Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena (the current mayor’s father) championed the project, concluding his 16-years in office with what town and state officials labeled a major economic victory for the region. The tax agreement with Johnston should ultimately yield 20 annual payments, each averaging more than $7.2 million.

How much did Johnston leave on the table by signing the 2021 tax agreement?

Then Town Council Vice-President (and now Mayor) Polisena Jr. discussed that point with legal counsel and told the Johnston Sun Rise, based on “rough estimates (Amazon will) be paying around 60% of their total obligation.”

Once the facility finally opens, Amazon also agreed to a long list of payments to community organizations, state and local departments.

The company pledged to spend up to $90,000 annually on Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) bus passes for facility employees during the first 10 years of operation, to commute from the state’s urban centers: Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket.

Within 1-3 years after facility opening, Amazon promised “up to $100,000 for a traffic mitigation study” at the site; and a year after completion of the traffic study, up to $1,000,000 for “post-construction traffic mitigation equipment and improvements.”

Amazon pledged $582,500 annually toward funding a Johnston High School Pathway Program, $1,250,000 toward Rhode Island Municipal Education and Training Initiatives, $2,750,000 to Rhode Island’s Small Business Assistance Program (SBAP), 10 annual $538,000 payments to the Johnston’s “public safety operations,” $50,000 to “Johnston youth sports,” $100,000 to the Johnston Senior Center,  $250,000 to Johnston Municipal Land Trust, and $100,000 for Johnston Memorial Park.

Civetti asked for updates on those payments at last week’s public hearing, but he has yet to receive the details. The community partnership agreement also stipulates Johnston will be the first community to host a job fair, one of at least three promised hiring events.

“I look forward to seeing Amazon hold a Job Fair in Johnston over the next several months,” Civetti said. “I would imagine that the job fair could be held at their facility or perhaps at the Johnston High School to provide adequate parking for all those interested in attending.”

Last week's story:

Amazon renegotiates tax deal with Johnston

Mega retailer will now pay the town $618K less following construction delays


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