Amazon’s goals for Florida include delivery robots and Amazon Fresh stores, official says

From the Tallahassee Democrat

TALLAHASSEE – Amazon plays it close when it comes to the company playbook.

However, in Tallahassee, an audience of hundreds of business leaders and CEOs created a recent and rare opportunity to hear priorities and future growth plans for the world’s largest e-commerce company.

Sam Blatt, Amazon’s South Florida-based manager of economic development policy, spoke for nearly 30 minutes at the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Breakfast Meeting on Feb. 23.

From the Carolinas to Florida, he’s primarily responsible for ensuring new fulfillment and other logistics centers are completed to Amazon’s standards and that the company can put down roots in the communities in which its centers are located.

“My job is to help us get our facilities up and running, make sure that we’re welcomed in the community and we’re doing everything right to be part of the community,” Blatt said.

“So it involves all the boring stuff, like land-use changes and zoning and permits … and making sure the community wants us, because we don’t want to go somewhere where the community doesn’t want us.”

What’s happening and what’s ahead for Florida

Growth in Florida – Since 2010, Amazon has hired more than 59,000 full- and part-time employees in Florida. A new nearly 2.9 million-square-foot robotics fulfillment center under construction in Tallahassee is expected to increase the company’s statewide workforce by more than 1,000 employees.

The Tallahassee fulfillment center, codenamed “Project Mango,” will be Amazon’s 14th in Florida with even more in the works. Amazon’s operations currently generate $18 billion a year to the state’s economy, said Blatt.

“We are proud to call Florida home,” Blatt said. “We are proud to be investing in Florida.”

Here are some highlights of his talk:

Amazon’s sustainability efforts

Amazon co-founded the Climate Pledge in 2019, calling for a company commitment to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. It plans to invest more than $2 billion toward services and products to accomplish that goal.

By 2025, all of the company’s delivery stations throughout the country will be powered by electric vans. In addition, Blatt said all the company’s operations will be powered by 100% renewable energy by the same year.

Facilities will use solar, natural gas or wind power, such as its 253-megawatt wind farm in Texas that began operating in 2017.

Amazon Fresh: Growing grocery retail

Ironically, Amazon is growing its retail presence, considering it disrupted the retail industry with its e-commerce model and challenged brick-and-mortar companies.

The company, however, wants to become a retail force with Amazon Fresh – a grocery delivery service that will also incorporate brick-and-mortar stores.

“We’re looking to open a bunch of different Amazon Fresh grocery stores around the country in the coming years, including several in Florida by 2024,” Blatt said. “These are going to be grocery stores that you can go into.”

Naturally, the grocery stores will have “an Amazon twist,” said Blatt.

With the help of “walk-out technology,” customers will be able to do in-store shopping and leave the store without standing in line or self-checkout transactions as long as they have a smartphone and the Amazon app.

“You’re not committing a crime,” Blatt said referring to customers who simply pick out their items and walk out of the planned Amazon Fresh stores.

Delivery robots coming to Florida?

In the next few years, Amazon hopes to deliver some products to customers within 30 minutes of ordering.

Since 2017, walking-speed Scout robots have been used in the Seattle area, where Amazon has its headquarters. They were designed for residential neighborhoods and to be used on sidewalks, Blatt said.

The company hopes to eventually deploy the Scouts to make deliveries in some parts of Florida, he said.

Contact TaMaryn Waters at or follow @TaMarynWaters on Twitter.