Amazon set to open in Opa Locka
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE REAL DEAL
By MATTHEW A. PIGATT
Upon hearing about the plans to bring an Amazon mega-warehouse to Opa-locka, I became excited. When it was announced that the facility would bring more than 1,000 job opportunities, I became hopeful. Since realizing the realities of what this venture is really bringing, I have become disappointed. The major construction of the 850,000 square-foot facility is almost completed and if the past communication and “opportunity fair” provides any indication of future activities and behaviors, once again the residents of Opa-locka and surrounding communities will be left out.
On Thursday, November 16, the Carrie Meek International Business Park Construction Vendor and Labor Opportunity Fair was held at Sherbondy Village in Opalocka, Florida. The “fair” (a term that carries its own irony since nothing seems “fair” about what is happening) was marketed as an opportunity for contractors and laborers to learn about available positions in relation to the construction and operation of the state-of-the-art warehouse. As an elected official of the City of Opalocka, I was concerned by the optics of the event and the information I gathered directly from participants.
Of the multiple companies present at the “fair,” most of them were not Florida corporations and only some have a local presence within the state. In speaking with the company representatives, all of the major contracting opportunities and jobs were secured months in advance. There were relatively few “possible” job opportunities remaining and of those, which number less than 40, all are only part-time positions.
When asked about the number of labor positions that would be available once the facility became operational, a representative of the Meek Foundation advised that he was not exactly sure of the number nor the type of jobs.
Exactly how and when these positions would be advertised, whether any priority would be given to Opa-locka residents and whether there would be any opportunity for administration or management positions has seemingly not been hashed out enough for those questions to be responded to with intelligible answers.
This project was “sold” as a win-win for the County, the City of Opa-locka and local residents alike. The reality though is that to this point, it seems that only the County, non-local contractors and the Meek Foundation are benefitting from this venture. As a resident and an elected official of the City of Opa-locka, which will be the home of this mega warehouse, I am greatly disturbed by the lack of transparency and communication between those who oversee the development and implementation of this project and those within the surrounding cities who will be significantly impacted.
The lack of transparency and available information about this project beg the following questions: Where was the effort to engage local contractors and sub-contractors prior to the majority of the construction needs being placed under agreements? Where is the proof of the desire and intent of the Meek Foundation and the County to ensure that employment opportunities on all levels will be made available to Opa-locka residents? Where is the plan to prepare the employment-seeking population for the positions that are purported to become available in Fall 2018 when the facility is scheduled to begin operations? These questions are far too important to remain outstanding. Those within the City of Opa-locka and the surrounding areas deserve to have information about the projects and plans related to the Amazon facility.
Considering the magnitude of this project as well as the claimed benefits to the community, the need for transparency is paramount because historically benefits from such projects often fail to trickle down to those within the immediate area that are in the most need. The community deserves to have a legitimate level of disclosure regarding the Amazon mega-warehouse. We deserve a fair chance to benefit from the development and operations of the facility, be it in the form of construction or operational position opportunities. The fact that the elements of transparency and fairness appear to be missing from this project is extremely disconcerting. I hope that this writing will trigger an actual open and transparent disclosure enabling elected officials such as myself to be better positioned to help the communities we pledged to serve. I hope the opportunities that initially induced the “buy-in” of the public will still come to fruition, although the lack of disclosure, transparency and forthcoming information is causing that hope to diminish rapidly.