GARNER – State, county and local officials announced Friday that online retailing giant Amazon will open a $200 million distribution center in Garner on a site that formerly housed a ConAgra plant.

“Amazon is coming to Garner!” Mayor Ronnie Williams said during a press conference attended by several local dignitaries, including Wake County Manager David Ellis, Michael Haley, executive director of Wake County Economic Development, and Jessica Holmes, chairwoman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. “Today will be remembered as the day that Garner entered a new era of prosperity and opportunity.”

Officials said the distribution center at 4851 Jones Sausage Road will occupy 2.6 million square feet of space. The center is expected to employ up to 1,500 people and bring a payroll of at least $45 million to the town of Garner.

Town Manager Rodney Dickerson noted that the new investment at the site will help Garner move closer toward a tax base that is more evenly split between commercial and residential.

“As a result of this major new investment in our community, our citizens will have to shoulder less of the tax burden in the years ahead,” Dickerson said

“Project Axis” was the name of the development effort used by Garner officials when the town’s planning commission voted 4-1 last month to move it forward.

“I had no idea how complicated it was,’ Wake County Commissioner John Burns said of the recruitment process. “There are a lot of moving parts. The state of North Carolina’s Department of Commerce has been involved, the town of Garner’s economic development, Wake County Economic Development all working to make sure we understand what this company is looking for and, most importantly, we can sell what this community offers.”

ConAgra shut down its Slim Jim manufacturing plant on the site following a June 2009 explosion that killed four people and injured several others. The location has been largely dormant ever since.

“Today’s announcement is a testament that good things come to those who wait,” said Joe Stallings, Garner’s economic development director.

Officials said the new Amazon facility is expected to open in late 2019.

Rendering of Amazon facility in Garner

A rendering of what the Amazon facility will look like when it opens in Garner in 2019. (Photo: Garner)

Hillwood Development Company, a Texas-based firm which Virginia Business Magazine branded as the “Amazon developer” after the firm built an Amazon distribution center in the state, is in charge of the Garner project.

According to a 37-page planning document, the building will be four stories tall and include a 30-foot water tower.

Based on traffic data included in the document, the site may employ more than 2,000 people, with 1,130 workers expected for a morning shift and 1,097 for an evening shift.

Amazon already has a distribution center in Durham and recently agreed to build another in Charlotte near Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

If the construction of Virginia’s Amazon distribution center by Hillwood is an example, the project should proceed quickly. It was approved in the spring of 2017 and opened in February 2018.

Jones Sausage Road is being expanded to four lanes with traffic lights, according to the plans.

“There will be significant road improvements made along Jones Sausage Road corridor and the interchange I-40,” Stallings said.

The Triangle also is on the short list of potential sites for Amazon’s HQ2 second headquarters project, and the distribution center added to optimism that the company might make another special delivery to the area.

“We are proud to have Garner be the home to Amazon’s first location in Wake County,” Burns said.

“We certainly know we are still in the mix [for HQ2],” he added. “The area has worked very hard to make sure we put our best foot forward. The same sort of benefits we told them about in this process, I am sure, we will be telling them about in that one. So, I think we have a good chance.”

For maps and a site plan, see:

Former ConAgra site in Garner could be home for big Amazon distribution center