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Amazon Prime Air
The first branded Amazon Prime Air cargo jet made its debut in Seattle last year. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Amazon says it will build a new air cargo hub at Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky International Airport to accommodate its growing fleet of Prime Air delivery jets, creating more than 2,000 jobs in the process.

Total investment in the hub is projected to amount to $1.49 billion, according to reports from Kentucky. The plan calls for extensive construction on a 920-acre site, and reportedly represents the largest single investment ever made by a company in Northern Kentucky.

“We couldn’t be more excited to add 2,000-plus Amazon employees to join the more than 10,000 who work with us today across our robust operations in Kentucky,” Dave Clark, Amazon senior vice president of worldwide operations, said in a statement.

Today’s announcement was timed to coincide with the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority’s preliminary approval for $40 million in tax incentives over 10 years for the project.

Last year, Amazon said it would build up a fleet of 40 leased Boeing 767 cargo airplanes to boost its shipping capability. The first branded Prime Air jet made its debut in Seattle last August, and as of today 16 of the jets are in operation. More are rolling out regularly.

Amazon signaled that it would be shifting operations from its current base at Wilmington Air Park in Ohio.

In today’s announcement, Amazon said it “plans to offer job opportunities at any Amazon site across the U.S. to those involved in the package sortation that occurs today in Wilmington.”

The new jobs would count toward Amazon’s pledge to add 100,000 workers over the next 18 months.

Update for 9:25 p.m. PT Jan. 31: Word of Amazon’s expansion plans got a mixed review from Rick Ziebarth, a longtime cargo pilot and executive council chairman of Airline Professionals Association Teamsters Local 1224. The union has been in a long-running battle with Atlas Air World Wide Holdings and Air Transport Services Group, the companies that employ the pilots for Amazon Prime Air, over staffing concerns and contract delays.

Here’s Ziebarth’s emailed statement:

“As pilots, we take great pride in serving Amazon customers, and are glad to see the company making strong investments in key markets, like Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky. But now more than ever, we’re concerned about the ability of contracted carriers like AAWW and ATSG to meet Amazon’s growing demands. Investors, customers and members of these communities should be asking themselves – who is going to fly these planes? With ATSG and AAWW executives refusing to agree to industry-standard contracts, our carriers are losing pilots at record rates and we fear there won’t be enough qualified pilots to get the job done safely and efficiently as Amazon continues to expand. We’re thrilled to see a company like Amazon invest in our communities, but we’d hate to see them lose these job opportunities and investments if operations become unsustainable due to the inability to attract skilled pilots.”

Wilmington-based ATSG has said the pilots must resolve their differences with ABX Air, the subsidiary that operates Amazon’s leased planes, through arbitration and other provisions of their labor agreement.

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