This story was updated Oct. 27 with approval from the Gates Planning Board.
A major distribution center may be coming to Gates, bringing with it a projection of 1,232 jobs.
The potential is significant and could have implications for ongoing racial equity work in Monroe County.
“No one can remember anyone coming here and bringing 1,000 jobs in recent memory,” Bob Duffy, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer wrote in response to an emailed question.
He said T-Mobile pledged between 1,300 and 1,500 but plans still are being finalized.
On Oct. 26, the Planning Board gave final go-ahead to the application of Acquest Development Company of Williamsville, Erie County, to build a 278,000-square foot warehouse at 2600 Manitou Road.
Site preparation began the same week.
When asked about the impact in general of that number of jobs, “It would make a very positive difference with both employment/equity issues,” Duffy said.
The application does not name the company that would occupy the space, but the specifications of the warehouse and description of its use are consistent with large distribution centers run by online retailers such as Amazon.
According to the application from Acquest to the Gates Planning Board, “The primary role of the warehouse is to bring in and sort out shipments from other regions destined to be delivered to a grouping of zip codes within the Rochester region.” The parcels then would be shipped to post offices or courier depots.
The plan calls for 24/7 operations “with package sortation being performed over four equal shifts of 308 employees each.” Approximately 209 trucks would deliver packages each day, primarily between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. Plans call for 78 loading docks and 346 trailer parking stalls. Existing infrastructure would be used.
Michael Huntress, owner/manager of Acquest Development declined to name the occupant. He said the warehouse could accommodate more than one business and that Acquest has a number of people looking at different projects.
He said his company also received approval for a project in Greece.
Acquest had bought the Manitou Road property that had been used by Kodak, but it had been dormant for several years.
Gates officials also declined to name the company going into the warehouse, but Supervisor Cosmo Giunta said that number of jobs would be boost for the town and the county.
“It’s wonderful,” Giunta said. “Not just the jobs, but even for the neighboring businesses, the sales tax revenue that something like this would bring. Even the housing market potentially, or rent. It would be a huge economic impact.”
In 2018, Amazon moved into a 70,000-square foot delivery station in Henrietta. At the time, Rochester was believed to be in the hunt for a second Amazon headquarters. Then-County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo announced the distribution center and said it would bring jobs, but at the time that number was not available.
Huntress said there are companies looking at the Gates space that could bring that total number of jobs.
Whether the jobs come from one or more businesses, the community can’t look only at the total but has to make sure there is equal access.
Former Mayor Bill Johnson, a co-chair of the Commission on Racial and Structural Equity, said often municipalities hesitate to place demands on potential employers for fear of losing jobs.
He said there are ways to make demands without chasing away potential jobs. He cited the example of his administration working with Tops Friendly Markets to bring grocery stores to the city. Tops had to set aside a certain number of jobs for neighborhood residents.
“There are all kinds of ways you can be creative and innovative,” he said. “To say, we’re getting 1,200 jobs but we can’t put any control on it, … I don’t accept that.”
In talking about jobs in general, Duffy said the state and any other entity that issue grants or arrange payments in lieu of taxes need to have equity in mind. “I hate to say it but I think we have to establish a quid pro quo, for this we need that.”
Duffy said the area has the talent, but would-be workers need to be connected with the jobs.
“We need to be very intentional and very focused on trying to eradicate poverty,” he said, by coincidence on the first day of the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge. About 300 businesses have signed up to commit to deepening their understanding of racism, bias and other social inequities.
Duffy said Rochester does not have a strong Black middle class.
“We have failed here in Rochester,” he said. “We are behind, way behind other cities. I think sometimes we tend to pump our chest and say how great we are, but we fail to realize that we’re not going to be great unless there are opportunities for everybody.”
Duffy said the wages for warehouse employment can be a stepping stone to the middle class.
The site for the warehouse is adjacent to the Rochester Technology Park and is zoned general industrial.
According to plans already submitted to the Planning Board, the project involves building a single-story warehouse and office space, training rooms, conference rooms, locker rooms and break rooms.
There was no number given for construction jobs. The plans submitted by Acquest anticipated a 12-month construction period.