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Mystery 'delivery station' bringing 200 jobs to Mills River

A contractor has cleared land for a 112,000-square-foot warehouse on N.C. 280 across from Broadpoint Industrial Park. A contractor has cleared land for a 112,000-square-foot warehouse on N.C. 280 across from Broadpoint Industrial Park.

MILLS RIVER — Although around 200 jobs are coming to Mills River in a new warehouse and delivery center, most people don’t know the identity of the employer and those who know are sworn to secrecy.

Clearing and site work is well under way at the site on N.C. 280 at Fanning Fields Road next to the Pepsi distribution center. The town of Mills River in November issued a zoning permit to a Greensboro-based contractor that is building the 112,000-square-foot warehouse. The Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development is aware of the project but the mystery company has not asked for economic development incentives in the form of property tax refunds from either the county or Mills River and is taking pains to keep its identity under wraps.

No one would say that the facility is an Amazon delivery station but evidence suggests that it might be. The property owners sold the 28-acre tract of land to ALM Asheville LLC for $400,000 on Jan. 14. Amazon confirmed last month that it is opening a delivery station in Bremerton, Washington, of remarkably similar dimensions. That facility is 117,000 square feet on 31.5 acres, and also near the Bremerton airport. In that case the property buyer was ALM Bremerton LLC, leading to speculation that ALM stands Amazon Last Mile. (Amazon calls the packers and drivers that deliver orders from delivery stations to customers the Last Mile team.) The contractor who applied for the Mills River zoning permit described the project as a “Delivery Station Warehouse Building.” Delivery station is a term that Amazon uses for its last mile distribution centers. In response to an inquiry from the Hendersonville Lightning, Amazon spokesman Shone Jemmot said in an email: "We are constantly exploring new locations and weighing a variety of factors when deciding where to develop sites to best serve customers. However, we don’t provide information on our future roadmap."

Brittany Brady, president of the Partnership for Economic Development, said she is aware of the project but prohibited under a non-disclosure agreement from releasing the name of the employer.

“Every company’s different,” she said. “They are not announcing who they are. I was told one day you’ll drive by and see a building with a sign on it. They are investing in the community and creating jobs in the community without (economic development) incentives.”
Construction of the warehouse has not started but apparently will go up quickly once the site prep is done. “We’ve been told fall of this year” for completion, Brady said.

“It’s approved from the town’s point of view,” Mills River Town Manager Daniel Cobb said last week. “We certainly are happy to have the jobs and the investment. They haven’t requested anything (such as tax breaks) so we’re not doing anything with them. The town is happy with the employment and the increased tax base we’re going to have in town.”
Plans submitted by the contractor, Samet Corp., show the warehouse plus a 9,715-square-foot outside staging area. Mills River and economic development officials have been told the warehouse would employ around 200 people. A calculation of required parking spaces in the Mills River zoning application is based on an “assumed 268 employees.” Calls to the contractor and the zoning permit applicant were not returned.
Mills River Town Council member Roger Snyder and Henderson County Commissioner Bill Lapsley said they’ve not been told the name of the company.
“They haven’t told us anything,” Snyder said.
“I suspect who it is but I’m not going to say,” Lapsley said. “I have no clue, I don’t know. I found out about it after they closed on the property because I’m so close to the sisters.”
The property was sold by the Cadgene sisters, heirs to the former farmland that became Broadpoint Industrial Park across N.C. 280 from the 28-acre warehouse property. The land was valued for tax purposes at $310,000 but because it had an agriculture-use exemption had a taxable value of $7,300, county tax records show.

“Whoever it is apparently wants to keep it quiet,” Lapsley said. “I don’t know why.”

Brady said Amazon, FedEx, Walmart and other large retailers are all heavily in the business of last-mile fulfillment of on-line orders.
“All these companies are trying to find distribution centers,” she said. “They move quickly. They don’t request incentives. Everything from Steak and Potatoes to Walmart has to keep up with Amazon. Nordstrom’s has to keep up with Amazon. How can they serve Western North Carolina from Chicago?”
The Partnership welcomes the jobs, Brady said, even if the drivers’ nametags are a secret for now.
“It is rare to get this far along and not have an announcement,” she said. “But that is the way the client wants to operate and we’ll very eagerly await to see the sign on the building.”