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It matters when Johnston's Amazon opens


Amazon’s opening date is a big deal.

The folks working in Amazon’s New England communications office are likely sick of hearing from the Johnston Sun Rise.

We’ve been a bit pushy, trying to get Johnston’s taxpayers and job-seekers an answer on the official date when the giant blue and white building on the hill will open for business.

When will the job fairs start? When will Amazon fill the 1,500 jobs they promised Rhode Island?

“I don’t have any updates from Amazon,” Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena Jr. said earlier this week. “They will reach out to the Town when they are ready to begin the hiring process for the facility.”

Last year, Amazon reassessed progress at the site and told the Sun Rise that they scheduled the Johnston facility’s “completion date” for the “second half of 2023.”

Welcome to the second half. It’s summertime and still, no date has been announced, no job fairs have been held and no town or company officials will provide solid details.

When will the building open? Is Amazon’s estimate from January 2022 still accurate?

Amazon Spokesman Steve Kelly responded to our latest inquiries.

“The last few updates we provided you on this facility are still the latest from us,” Kelly replied early Wednesday morning. When we have more to share, (we) will be sure to circle back with you.”

A follow-up inquiry yielded a tiny bit more information.

When can the region’s job-seekers expect hiring to begin?

“General hiring usually starts about 4 to 6 weeks before a building launches,” Kelly replied with an answer that would be more helpful with an opening date.

In March, Johnston Town Council President Robert V. Russo, responding to Sun Rise queries regarding progress at the site, assured residents the facility would open, eventually.

“I am confident it will open — but I do not believe it will open on time,” Russo said in an April 1 response.

Earlier this spring, we also asked Amazon if the facility would eventually open, or if it would forever sit vacant. The company assured us that it would open, and Amazon would be hiring 1,500 employees. 

However, asked to clarify when the Johnston facility would open, Amazon dodged the question:

“Will the Amazon facility in Johnston open by the end of 2023 (as previously estimated by Amazon)?”

“Thanks for following up,” Kelly wrote via email on April 4. “The information we provided you last week on this is the latest from us. As both Caitlin and I mentioned, once we have more to share, we will be sure to let you know.”

We then provided a long list of Amazon projects from across the nation that have reportedly been abandoned. We asked for updates on those projects, to gain a perspective on the company’s nationwide facility goals.

“There isn’t any new information on a timeline to share from us on this project right now,” Amazon spokesperson Caitlin McLaughlin responded on April 5.

Some of the money promised to Johnston will arrive, no matter the status of the building on the hill. Some, however, like payments to youth sports and the town’s senior center, are contingent upon the facility opening.

Is the project on track?

They may not answer, no matter how often we ask. But we’ll keep asking.


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