Amazon launches Dubuque facility, plans to employ at least 200 locally

The world’s largest online retailer has officially launched operations in Dubuque, with plans to employ more than 200 people through full-time and contract positions.

E-commerce company Amazon opened a delivery station at 7200 Chavenelle Road in Dubuque on Jan. 12.

Site Lead and Operations Manager Louie Oswald said the Dubuque facility originally was planned to launch in September 2021, but was delayed until the new year.

“We’ve heard folks saying, ‘We knew Amazon was coming. We just didn’t know when,’” he said. “Now, the news is spreading quickly, and we’re excited.”

Oswald said the Dubuque facility currently employs about 30 associates, including warehouse employees and a management team. Over the next several months, officials hope to add 100 to 150 warehouse associates.

Additionally, the Dubuque Amazon location seeks to recruit a pool of 100 to 150 “flex drivers,” Oswald said. These independently contracted drivers will deliver packages on the facility’s routes, which extend up to 60 miles from the Dubuque center.

Once production has ramped up, the facility will process approximately 25,000 packages per day.

Road to opening

The property at 7200 Chavenelle previously was owned by Walter Development LLC, the real estate arm of Dubuque-based company Hodge.

Tim Hodge, CEO of Hodge, said his company was contacted by a brokerage firm on behalf of Amazon. The firm worked with Hodge, as well as Greater Dubuque Development Corp., to facilitate the sale of the 120,000-square-foot warehouse.

“There are a variety of factors that we take into account when deciding to launch a building, such as customer demand, a dedicated workforce and great local support — and we’ve found all of those in Dubuque and surrounding communities,” Caitlin Polochak, regional public relations manager for Amazon, wrote in an email to the Telegraph Herald.

Online property records state that the property was sold on Nov. 17 for $8.6 million. It was purchased by California-based commercial real estate company Cardinal Industrial.

Reached by the Telegraph Herald, a representative from Cardinal Industrial confirmed that Amazon is a tenant at the location.

Prior to the facility’s opening, substantial renovations were completed at the warehouse, according to Rick Dickinson, president and CEO of Greater Dubuque Development Corp.

“A significant buildout took place at the project — a huge capital investment in infrastructure for distribution, and major work to the exterior to expand parking,” he said.

Hodge said the building also was expanded by about 5,000 feet on its south side.

“It looks fantastic,” he said of the renovated facility. “They put a lot of time into it.”

A building permit issued by the City of Dubuque for the project estimated construction costs at more than $16 million.

Dickinson confirmed that Amazon did not seek local incentives from the City of Dubuque when launching its operation in the city.

‘Last mile’ operation

Oswald said the Dubuque facility is known as an RSR, or “rural/super rural” delivery center. Often referred to as “last mile” operations, these facilities transport packages from delivery stations to customers’ homes.

A customer’s order begins at one of Amazon’s large fulfillment centers. The first such center in Iowa opened in Bondurant in late 2020, and the company has confirmed plans to open another in Davenport this spring.

Packages travel from fulfillment centers to sorting and distribution centers, culminating at a facility such as the Dubuque location, where they are delivered to customers.

“These centers are starting to be placed in smaller cities like Dubuque, to grow our reach and better serve our customers faster,” Oswald said.

Polochak wrote that Amazon has invested more than $250 million in Iowa since 2010 and created more than 1,500 full- and part-time jobs in the state.

“It’s really exciting to see the state as a whole reap the benefits of those jobs and opportunities,” said Max Flynn, area manager at the Dubuque facility.

Oswald said the Dubuque delivery station exclusively will process packages ordered through Amazon Prime.

“If you have a Prime account, you’re going to start to receive your packages quicker,” he said.

Dickinson described the new Amazon facility as “a nice addition” to the Dubuque economic scene.

“It will provide contracted jobs and full-time jobs for the market, and we’re sure that they’ll be happy with their choice (of Dubuque),” he said.

Hodge agreed.

“All of those projects, when you bring big companies like that into our community, I think end up being good projects,” he said.