Opening of Amazon facility, expansion of Coke bottling plant cap big week in eastern Henrico

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A ribbon-cutting Monday marked the official opening of Amazon’s massive Richmond Fulfillment Center, which started operations in October. (Jonathan Spiers photos)

A pair of back-to-back events in Henrico on Monday capped a trifecta of economic announcements for the county over the past week.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin and other state officials joined Henrico administrators and company representatives in celebrating the opening of the massive Amazon distribution center near Richmond Raceway, as well as the completion of the second expansion in three years of bottling company Coca-Cola Consolidated’s plant in Sandston.

The events followed the announcement a few days earlier of another economic win for Henrico and Virginia: a $10 million investment by Tucker Door & Trim to establish a manufacturing facility at 2700 Distribution Drive, in the Airport Distribution Center off Laburnum Avenue.

Virginia competed with Georgia for the facility, which will open by April 1 and expand Tucker Door’s capacity and northeastern reach, according to a release.

Acknowledging the developments at the Amazon event, the second of the two facility tours held Monday, Youngkin told attendees: “The Henrico County Board of Supervisors is busy today.”

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Gov. Glenn Youngkin and other officials were given a tour of the Amazon facility. (Photo courtesy Amazon)

The Amazon event included a ribbon-cutting and tour of the 2.7 million-square-foot facility, which officially opened Monday but has been operational since October.

Referred to by the company as its RIC4 fulfillment center, the massive distribution facility uses robotics technology designed to assist employees in sorting, packaging and shipping smaller goods such as books, electronics and household items. Amazon opened a similar facility in Suffolk in 2021.

The Henrico facility – previously referred to as Project Speedway for its proximity to the race track – has created over 1,000 full-time jobs and is big enough to fit 46 football fields, said Ammar Ahmad, the fulfillment center’s general manager. The five-story, 100-foot-tall structure is unmissable along Richmond Henrico Turnpike, where it fills the bulk of a 120-acre site that the raceway sold in 2021.

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The massive facility is unmissable along Richmond Henrico Turnpike.

The facility is the largest building in Central Virginia, according to the Henrico Economic Development Authority. In his remarks Monday, Youngkin agreed, calling it “the largest building I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“It is enormous! Forty-six football fields? We would need 92 teams,” Youngkin said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “The volume of what goes on in here is truly astounding.”

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Youngkin is shown the facility’s robotics technology that helps employees move and sort goods. (Photo courtesy Amazon)

“We’ve been waiting for this package for quite some time,” added Sen. Lamont Bagby, who described the building as a boon for an area that’s been a focus of revitalization efforts by the county and in need of a grocery store in particular.

“This is going to help with that,” he said.

The center is the first of its kind in Central Virginia, and one of several across the country that Texas-based Hillwood Enterprises has developed with the online retailer signed on as a tenant. Hillwood, led by Ross Perot Jr., bought the raceway site at 5901 Richmond Henrico Turnpike for $7.7 million. A dollar figure for the building was not provided.

Clark Construction Group was the contractor on the project, working with Northern Virginia-based Shirley Contracting Co. Design firm Ware Malcomb was the architect.

Bottling plant completes $50M expansion

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Youngkin and Virginia Commerce and Trade Secretary Caren Merrick take a tour of Coca-Cola Consolidated’s warehouse.

Earlier in the day, officials converged on the bottling plant in Sandston, where Coca-Cola Consolidated recently completed the second of two expansions that amount to a $50 million combined investment in the facility at 500 Eastpark Court.

The 326,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and 210,000-square-foot distribution center underwent a $23 million expansion in 2021 that added 3,000 square feet to the manufacturing building and included new equipment and production capabilities, specifically a blow-mold line for bottle production. The expansion added 40-plus jobs at the Sandston plant, which totals about 500 employees.

Since then, the 63-acre campus was further enhanced, increasing its production capacity from 500,000 to 1.25 million cases. Other improvements included a new canning line with upgraded LED lighting that’s expected to cut energy costs.

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The 63-acre campus near Sandston is visible along Interstate 64. (Photo courtesy Coca-Cola Consolidated)

Noting the company’s presence in Henrico since the late 1980s, Varina Supervisor and Board Chairman Tyrone Nelson said Monday: “These back-to-back, sizable investments show Coca-Cola Consolidated’s deep commitment to operating in Henrico County for the long term, and we couldn’t be any more thrilled with that plan.”

The publicly traded company purchased the facility in 2016 from a subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Co. Headquartered in Charlotte, Coca-Cola Consolidated operates separately from the soft drink brand and is the largest independent Coca-Cola bottler in the country and trades on NASDAQ under the ticker symbol “COKE.”

It has eight facilities in Virginia, including a 350,000-square-foot distribution center in Chesterfield’s Meadowville Technology Park, where it also made improvements in recent years.

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Scott Burger
Scott Burger
18 days ago

Made possible by relatively cheap water from City of Richmond, which sells water to the counties and yet charges its own citizens way more for the same water. https://www.oregonhill.net/2021/07/25/king-asks-governor-to-reject-mayors-plea-without-water-rate-reform/

Carl Schwendeman
Carl Schwendeman
18 days ago
Reply to  Scott Burger

Richmond is the prefect place to have a bottling plant to make bottled water and soda in that Richmond gets it’s water from the James River. And five miles away from the James River water treatment plant the fresh river water gets dumped over some rapids and goes into the brackish water tidal James River. into the ocean which is a waste of fresh water. The James River also carries a lot more water volume then a lot of the rivers and areas were they are pumping out groundwater to make bottled water.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
18 days ago

Thank you Carl for an educational post! I might add that there is not a whole lot upstream from Richmond, population-wise. Petersburg has a similar advantage. In the long history of sanitation has some pretty interesting and tragic chapters — people in relatively pristine areas of the Midwest for instance would come down with a lot of deadly diseases from being downstream of urban areas for instance. I think this led to some groundbreaking litigation, science and legislation, if I recall. One of the advantages of VA is having enough fresh water, even though we have cyclical droughting shared throughout… Read more »

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
17 days ago

Your reply does not change anything I wrote. “Made possible by relatively cheap water from City of Richmond, which sells water to the counties and yet charges its own citizens way more for the same water.”

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
14 days ago
Reply to  Scott Burger

So, you are saying they should sell the water for the same price that they over-charge Richmonders?

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
18 days ago
Reply to  Scott Burger

This is par for the course — witness California water and farms. Producers pay less than consumers — we are lucky that VA has cheap water!!!

Punk rockers need everything dirt cheap because a lot of what they produce is essentially a form of vandalism.

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
18 days ago

Scott: I get a gas bill from the City of Richmond and a water bill from Henrico County. As an aside Henrico County’s reservoir will be online this year. It will take care of the County’s water needs for the next 50 years.

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
18 days ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

I stand by my post, despite your attempts to obfuscate.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
18 days ago
Reply to  Scott Burger

Maybe you should worry that Richmond perhaps won’t be getting any of the revenue any longer.

When I first came down here, a Petersburg business owner told me that anyone would be crazy to move there because they people were crazy. I asked the guy (who I will just say was a foreign born immigrant) what he was talking about, he said that they turned up the opportunity to get the amusement park in Williamsburg because they refused to give them a good deal on water.

Water in Virginia, almost everywhere, is CHEAP.

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
17 days ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

Again, read what I wrote, which is about economic and environmental justice, which I know most ‘biz’ people here look down upon: “Made possible by relatively cheap water from City of Richmond, which sells water to the counties and yet charges its own citizens way more for the same water.”

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
16 days ago
Reply to  Scott Burger

I read what you wrote, I happen do disagree with your views about what will make the world a better place. You seem to think that the people who produce the least value should get an “equal share” of what is produced. If your vision comes true, it will look like the past in places where there were not only bread lines, but every family member must wait in a different line and get no productive work done. Oh, and the water will be polluted too. Just like in the eastern block countries. That is always the biggest irony in… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
16 days ago
Reply to  Scott Burger

Oh, and I just read your blog post —- I think the problem you may be having is that Richmond, and the types of people who run city hall, are in typical fashion raising the price of water relative to say the counties to cover their sins — the sins of using govt as a form of graft and a jobs policy that discourages efficiency. As someone from NYS, I can attest that the govts up there LOVE to charge too much for basic services so they can use the money as a political carrot and stick — reward their… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
16 days ago
Reply to  Scott Burger

Oh, one more thing — you are absolutely CORRECT about one thing: places like Richmond love to cry poormouth to guilt the Statehouse and Washington to bail them out for not spending their own money on infrastructure maint. and impr. — it is hard to say if it is incompetence or if they just want to spend their money buying votes and hiring who they want to hire, not the people who will do the best job for the best price.

Martha Lee
Martha Lee
17 days ago

In light of the recent data regarding the performance of Henrico’s East End schools, perhaps these two corporate giants can come together with the county to support education. The East End needs support by way of mentors, job readiness skills and tutors for math and especially, reading. What say you, Mr. Bezos? It takes a village.

Last edited 17 days ago by Martha Lee