Interest intensifies as construction begins on possible Amazon fulfillment centre near London, Ont.

Construction began Monday on what is widely believed to be a massive new Amazon fulfillment centre at the site of the former Ford auto plant on Colonel Talbot Road although Amazon itself has yet to confirm reports.

Heavy machinery could be seen at the site moving earth, while it appeared mobile offices were being set up. All sights and sounds of progress where there had been none for several years.

Former London city controller Gord Hume, now a known expert on city-building and municipal governance, says landing Amazon is a major coup that most communities would be envious of.

“I think you’re going to see a real boost to the regional economy because of this. And it’s going to come in a variety of different ways. It will come in housing, it will come in spinoff businesses, it’ll come in little mom and pop operations. Coffee shops, restaurants, and everything else. So I think we should be very welcoming of Amazon in this case.”

Amazon warehouse on Robins Hill Road in London, Ont. on July 5, 2021. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV London)

Last week commercial realtor CBRE confirmed the 250 hectare industrial property had been sold. The most recent developments come as construction continues on a pair of Amazon warehouses at a northeast London industrial park.

But while the many hundreds of jobs that are expected is welcome news, a London labour lawyer cautions future job seekers that Amazon’s employee relations haven’t always been smooth.

“They monitor, for efficiency purposes, virtually every move that employees wind up making,” said Michael Lynk, a law professor at Western University. “They would be able to find out, for example, how long you’ve spent going to the washroom.”

With the unionized Ford plant having been on the site for more than four decades, closing in 2011, Lynk also points out the sharp contrast between old and new industry, union and non-union work environments.

“Amazon will have no trouble at all hiring to fill the jobs in the fulfillment centre and in the two satellite warehouses here. The think to keep in mind is, ‘will that workforce be stable? Will there be a high turnover? When will unions come knocking on the door to see if they can try to unionize this?’”

Civic leaders have said they’re hoping for a formal announcement from Amazon in the near future.