Kentucky landed a lucrative project Tuesday as e-commerce giant Amazon announced plans to build a worldwide air cargo hub at a northern Kentucky airport south of Cincinnati in a nearly $1.5 billion investment expected to create 2,700 jobs.
Gov. Matt Bevin called it a "transformative and exciting venture," and said the Amazon shipping hub will strengthen the Bluegrass state's position as a top global logistics center.
Amazon, which already employs thousands at distribution centers in the state, deepened its ties with Kentucky by choosing Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport as the place to support its growing fleet of Prime Air cargo planes.
"This new project will pay dividends to both the company and our state, and we are truly grateful for the jobs and economic impact it will bring to the commonwealth," Bevin said in a statement.
Seattle-based Amazon said the airport at Hebron, Kentucky, quickly "rose to the top of the list" of contenders for the air hub due to the area's workforce, centralized location and proximity to regional distribution centers.
"We feel strongly that with these qualities as a place to do business, our investments will support Amazon and customers well into the future," said Dave Clark, Amazon's senior vice president of worldwide operations.
Amazon will build a sorting, loading and unloading facility on airport property, Kentucky officials said. Local airport board members approved a 50-year lease expandable to 900 acres of property, state officials said. The project will create 2,700 full- and part-time jobs, they said.
The Kentucky Economic Development Authority gave preliminary approval to a tax-incentive package worth up to $40 million for Amazon over the next 10 years. Amazon could reduce its tax bill by $4 million a year if it meets annual job and wage targets, including paying an average hourly wage of $26.
The online retail giant hasn't set a date for the project's groundbreaking.
Amazon's announcement looms as the largest single investment ever by a company in northern Kentucky, said Dan Tobergte, president of a regional economic development organization in northern Kentucky.
"It's certainly transformational for us in northern Kentucky and the Greater Cincinnati region," he said. "It's up there with the most impactful projects that we've ever worked."
Amazon will join UPS and DHL with major shipping hubs in Kentucky. UPS has a massive air hub in Louisville, while DHL has an international shipping hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover noted that Amazon's announcement comes weeks after the state's Republican-led legislature passed "right-to-work" legislation aimed at making it illegal to require workers to pay union dues to keep a job. The measure, signed into law by Bevin, created "an immediate opportunity for major investment and serious job creation," Hoover said.
However, UPS and DHL already had shipping hubs in the state before Kentucky became a right-to-work state.
Across the Ohio River, meanwhile, the leader of the Ohio House reacted glumly to news that Amazon had picked northern Kentucky instead of Wilmington, Ohio, for the air hub project.
"To say I am disappointed by today's news from Amazon is an understatement," said Ohio House Speaker Clifford A. Rosenberger. He promised to work with elected officials and business leaders to "move past this unfortunate news and continue to spur economic growth in our region of Ohio."
Schreiner reported from Louisville, Kentucky; Beam reported from Frankfort, Kentucky.