Huge Amazon warehouse opens in Missoula

At 2:30 am every morning, about two dozen workers show up to a giant new Amazon warehouse outside of Missoula to sort through between 7,000 and 10,000 packages and get them ready to be delivered in the area. It’s organized chaos, with a very refined and precise system that’s been honed over the years to maximize efficiency.

On Wednesday morning, Gov. Greg Gianforte, Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier and other city officials were in town for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new 72,000-square-foot delivery station. It’s the first operational facility in Montana for Amazon, which is the world’s largest online retailer and the second largest retailer behind Walmart. Amazon reported over $574 billion in sales in 2023, a 12% jump over the previous year.

The facility hired about 100 workers employed by Amazon and supports another 80 third-party contractors who drive the packages to customers within a 50-mile radius in all directions.

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Alecia Williams loads packages at the Amazon sorting warehouse in Missoula on March 27. Williams has worked at the facility for two months.

Luke Prinos

“It’s a great day to welcome Amazon to the Treasure State,” Gianforte said. “It’s created 100 good-paying jobs here in Montana. We’re thrilled that Amazon has recognized Montana’s business-friendly environment, our unmatched quality of living, which with that internal policy of letting people transfer anywhere, they may all transfer to Montana. So this facility will provide Montanans with more access to better jobs.”

Gianforte noted that workers at the company have lots of potential for promotions and that the huge warehouse was built by local contractors, including Dick Anderson Construction, PETES Electric, Temp Right Service and True North Steel.

“Our state is made stronger when companies like Amazon choose to do business here,” Gianforte continued.

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Demetrius Smith, left, and Kylique Rainwater load boxes filled with packages onto a delivery truck outside the Amazon sorting warehouse in Missoula on March 27. The drivers are not employed by Amazon but a different delivery company.

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Gianforte said his administration has pushed through tax cuts and increased incentives for businesses to relocate to Montana. He also said one of his main goals was to cut government rules to make a more business-friendly climate.

“We had to recognize the regulatory regime we had here was really a wet blanket on business,” Gianforte said. “And we went to work for red tape relief efforts to pull those regulations back and have now eliminated or streamlined 20% of all the regulations in the state. We want to make sure we protect public safety and the environment but the excess, we can get rid of that. And every employer also needs a strong workforce. And thanks to the pro-work policies, we have more people working in Montana than ever before.”

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Demetrius Smith, left, and Kylique Rainwater prepare a truck with packages outside the Amazon sorting warehouse in Missoula on March 27. Drivers arrived to load packages at around 9 am

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The Amazon facility has been open and delivering packages since October. Sam Bailey, an economic development policy manager at Amazon, said the company conducted studies on both the consumer demand and the workforce in Missoula before deciding to put its first delivery station in the state here. A building permit for the warehouse shows that the construction cost was around $8 million.

Strohmaier said the county government and county voters have chosen to invest in infrastructure and amenities, which in turn attracts workers and businesses. He said Missoula’s quality of life, amenities and access to the outdoors make it attractive.

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Carson Wesley, left, sorts packages at the Amazon sorting warehouse in Missoula on March 27. The workers in the facility begin sorting packages at 2:30 am each day.

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He also said that “less sexy” behind-the-scenes works, such as zoning, creating growth plans and making land use decisions, also makes Missoula County attractive for businesses and “sets the table” for facilities like the Amazon warehouse to be constructed .

“We’re also in a Targeted Economic Development District, which allows investment of tax dollars in infrastructure in this place,” he said. “And were it not for some of those tools, I would hazard a guess that this site would not be nearly as attractive for investors generally and a job-creator such as Amazon as it has been.”

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Ellyza Stuart piles boxes into an Amazon delivery truck in Missoula on March 27.

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Ellyza Stuart, 22, has worked for the contractor who manages the people who drive the Amazon delivery vans around town. She said she’s been enjoying the job and she’s very happy with the pay.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s super fun. I get to meet a lot of random people and most of them are super nice.”

An Amazon representative said that wages at the Missoula warehouse start at $17 an hour and can go up to $19.40 an hour. The hiring website Indeed says that a driver for an Amazon delivery service partner can make $21-$24 an hour depending on experience.

Amazon’s website states that warehouse associates need to be able to lift up to 49 pounds and use carts, dollies, hand trucks and other gear to move items around.

The warehouse marks a transition point for the makeup of the area’s economy.

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Amazon warehouse site leader Mabel Funderburk wraps up a tour of the facility on March 27. Gov. Greg Gianforte, center, visited for the tour and delivered a speech welcoming Amazon to Montana.

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Missoula County will lose about 250 jobs this spring because two wood products businesses, Pyramid Mountain Lumber in Seeley Lake and Roseburg Forest Products’ Missoula plant, both announced they’re shutting down permanently.

David Erickson is the business reporter for the Missoulian.

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