While Detroit didn’t land Amazon’s second headquarters, DTE Energy has been a lead player in creating and sustaining about 5,800 Amazon jobs in Michigan. In addition to its Detroit office, Amazon has built five fulfillment centers in southeast Michigan. A sixth facility is under construction near Grand Rapids.
For its largest centers, Amazon representatives contacted DTE before anyone else to see if the company could meet electric and gas specifications on aggressive schedules. Everything – the construction, the jobs, the economic boost – depended on DTE delivering. Teams of DTE employees got the facilities powered-up on time and thousands of Michiganders are working as a result.
Amazon’s first facility in Michigan is in Monroe County’s Brownstown Township, where in 2015 DTE provided electric and gas for a 200,000 square-foot sorting center now employing about 300 people.
The first of Amazon’s mega-facilities in Michigan began with a discreet phone call to DTE in 2016. Amazon was eyeing a site in Livonia for a one million-square-foot facility that required a dedicated electric substation and extending a 40kV transmission line. And it had to be done in nine months.
“If the specs and timeline couldn’t be met, Amazon would have moved on – probably out of state,” said Jacqueline Young, a principal account manager in DTE’s Economic Development unit and a member of the Livonia project’s cross-functional team. “Having power on time was critical for Amazon – that’s why they contacted us first – before state economic development officials or anyone else.”
Young and her team got it done. The Livonia fulfillment facility was energized in August last year and about 1,500 people are earning paychecks from that location.
While work was underway on Livonia, Amazon again wanted to establish a smaller distribution center in Hazel Park. That, too, was completed on time and on budget.
“In Hazel Park, we built an industrial substation and a 2.5-mile sub-transmission line extension in only 10 months, a task that normally takes 12 to 18,” said Jacob Chriss, principal account manager for the project. The substation was energized just before Thanksgiving last year and about 100 people now work there.
Then came the largest of all – a 1,600-employee fulfillment facility in Romulus. “We were first asked to relocate more than 2,000 feet of 40kV lines from the site so construction could start,” said George Easter, DTE account manager. “We got that done in about half the normal time. Then we relocated a distribution lead, which involved moving circuit cable poles as well as underground cable and conduit. A job like that usually takes about nine months and we got it done in six.”
DTE was again the first contacted on the feasibility of a third distribution center in Shelby Township. About 1,000 people now work at Amazon’s Shelby center, a one million-square-foot building energized in April.
DTE is providing natural gas to the newest Amazon fulfillment center near Grand Rapids, expected to open early next year and employ 1,000 workers.
“This wasn’t the grand prize of Amazon’s second headquarters, but helping create nearly 6,000 jobs in three years is an exceptional outcome for both Michigan and DTE,” said Robert Feldmann, executive director of DTE Electric Sales and Marketing. “Amazon said, ‘We’re coming to you first, can you get power to these sites in months not years?’. Our teams made it happen and DTE was instrumental in locating these centers in Michigan.”