Jeff Bezos breaks ground on $1.5B Amazon cargo hub for 100 Prime Air planes

In its ongoing quest to slash delivery times and get packages into customers’ hands as fast as possible, Amazon is ever so gradually taking increasing control of its gargantuan shipping operation.

While it still relies heavily on the likes of FedEx, UPS, and the USPO to get much of the work done, Amazon has also been investing heavily in major transportation projects designed to move its packages across the country before they’re sent out for final delivery.

The projects include air cargo transportation hubs for the company’s Prime Air aircraft that have been crisscrossing the U.S. since 2016.

At several dozen aircraft, Amazon’s fleet is still pretty small. But this week the company ramped up its efforts by breaking ground on a 3-million-square-foot cargo facility and 250,000-square-foot loading dock at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Local media described the size of the facility as equal to 31 Great American Ballparks. In other words, it’s big.

Aiming to score a few publicity shots and perhaps startle the companies set to lose Amazon’s business, the boss of the online shopping giant, Jeff Bezos, flew in on Tuesday to perform the ground-breaking ceremony. Swapping the ceremonial shovel for a front-end loader, Bezos bellowed “let’s move some earth” to the gathered crowd of local officials before hopping on board the vehicle to do the deed.

Following the daintily done dirt-moving maneuver — and once all the marketing material was well and truly in the can — Bezos climbed out of his seat and called out to the applauding onlookers: “If you’re wondering, that’s fun.”

The Cincinnati project is costing Amazon around $1.5 billion and is indeed expected to create some 2,000 jobs. As many as 100 Prime Air planes will use the facility when it opens in 2021.

Amazon began seriously considering the idea of controlling more of its shipping operation after experiencing severe logistical problems during the 2013 holiday season when several leading shipping companies became overwhelmed by an unexpectedly large number of packages — a situation that led to late deliveries for many of its customers. By way of apology, Amazon offered those affected a $20 gift card, and soon after the company revealed it was “reviewing the performance of the delivery carriers.”

In other recent efforts to improve its shipping operation, the company this week offered three months’ pay and $10,000 in set-up funds to any of its employees who quit their job to start an Amazon-supported business with a team of drivers delivering its packages.

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