TH EXCLUSIVE: World’s largest online retailer eyeing Dubuque

The world’s largest online retail company is preparing to invest $16 million and open a new location in Dubuque.

E-commerce giant Amazon recently posted multiple open positions specifically citing Dubuque as the location. According to Amazon’s website, there currently are Dubuque job openings for warehouse associate, picker/packer and order fulfillment in Dubuque. Multiple job postings were dated as recently as Thursday.

On top of that, recent documents submitted to the City of Dubuque point to a major renovation of an existing structure in Dubuque Industrial Center West.

A building permit indicates that more than $16 million will be spent to renovate an existing warehouse located at 7200 Chavenelle Road.

A separate document, submitted to the City of Dubuque Planning Services Department, revealed that planning and design consultant Kimley-Horn is guiding “major site changes” at 7200 Chavenelle Road in Dubuque. Kimley-Horn has partnered with e-commerce giant Amazon on a series of projects throughout the country, including projects in Florida and Wisconsin.

The building at 7200 Chavenelle Road is owned by Walter Development LLC, the real estate arm of Dubuque-based company Hodge. In recent years, Hodge has played a key role in economic development deals that brought Crown Holdings and Duluth Trading Co. to the community.

Michael Fullan, vice president of business development at Hodge, was tight-lipped about the prospect of Amazon’s impending arrival in Dubuque.

“I can neither confirm nor deny the claims about Amazon coming into town,” Fullan said.

Responding to questions about changes to the site itself, he confirmed that there will not be a significant expansion of the property at 7200 Chavenelle and said that the primary change to that property involved “exterior work.”

Officials with Amazon did not respond to requests for comment, nor did a Kimley-Horn representative whose name was listed on the application to the city.

The City of Dubuque also denied a request for comment.

“No city staff will be commenting for the article but thank you for the opportunity,” Public Information Officer Randy Gehl said via email.

The opening of a new location in Dubuque would make sense in the broader context of Amazon’s recent growth.

The company recently confirmed plans to construct a 640,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Davenport, Iowa, a project that will require an investment of $250 million and create 1,000 full-time jobs.

With company officials and city leaders unwilling to comment on the Dubuque project, the size and scope of it remain unclear. However, it appears it will not rival the enormity of Amazon’s presence in the Quad Cities.

Amazon strategy generally involves surrounding large fulfillment centers, like the one coming to Davenport, with a number of smaller facilities, often referred to as “last mile” operations. Through the utilization of such facilities, Amazon workers “get customer packages from delivery stations to a customer’s doorstep,” according to the Amazon Jobs website.

City Council Member and mayoral candidate Brad Cavanagh emphasized that he could not confirm that Amazon is planning to come to Dubuque, specifically noting that no documents related to such a project have been presented to council members for approval.

However, he did agree to talk about the prospect of such a company coming to Dubuque.

“I think it’s exciting that we continue to have attention from big national companies that are willing to look at Dubuque as a possible new location,” said Cavanagh, noting that the recent arrival of Simmons Pet Food provides another example of a large company choosing to expand into the community.

He also acknowledged that the possible project is a sign of the times.

“There is no denying that our economy is changing right before our eyes,” he said. “The way products get from businesses to consumers is so different now than it was in the past few decades. Those changes bring challenges but they also bring real opportunities.”

Council Member Ric Jones also was unable to confirm project specifics but was willing to speak broadly on the topic.

“Whoever it is, we are always happy to see new endeavors in Dubuque that will employ people,” he said. “This company will be competing in a market with a growing number of good jobs.”

The massive growth experienced by Amazon was on display one week ago when the company released its latest earnings report.

In the second quarter of 2021, the company reported $113 billion in net sales, an increase of 27% compared to the same quarter the previous year. Its net income in that quarter was $7.8 billion, an increase of about 50% compared to the same quarter in 2020.