PATTERSON — Last month's rainfall came at an inconvenient time for builders on the Amazon distribution center project. Mayor Luis Molina said muddy conditions have caused a delay in the opening of the 1 million-square-foot center, from spring to summer.
"We were originally looking at the second quarter of 2013, which would be right around April," Molina said. "Now, with setbacks, it's looking more like July potentially."
The delay hasn't dampened enthusiasm for the project, or efforts to help local residents get the hundreds of jobs planned at Amazon.
Molina said he hopes to work with the Internet retailing giant and local training programs to see if there is an opportunity to help train job seekers.
"I just feel compelled to see if we can provide a training program at no cost to residents who want to apply for Amazon jobs," Molina said. While he couldn't guarantee anyone a job, "We could at least strengthen their application."
An Amazon representative could not be reached for comment. A representative of the governor's office of business and economic development said he hadn't heard of a delay in Patterson but that it wouldn't be surprising, given the recent rain.
Stanislaus County sheriff's officials, who are building their own project with a new jail unit, said the rain delayed construction a couple of days, but crews figure to make up that time and the project remains set for completion this fall.
Patterson, which has suffered from the high unemployment and foreclosure rates endemic of the Northern San Joaquin Valley, has high hopes for Amazon. Originally billed as "Project X," city officials had predicted that it would bring more than 1,000 jobs to the area, consistent with Amazon distribution centers of similar size in other areas.
But a news release issued by the governor's office of business and economic development late last year referred to 350 jobs coming to Patterson. Amazon hasn't been specific with its promises, pledging only "hundreds" of jobs.
Whenever it opens and however many jobs it provides, Molina said the city will be glad to have them.
At a population of roughly 21,000, Patterson still is small enough that the unemployment rate is less a number than people who know each other. Molina said he has had numerous people ask him for help in landing a job be it with the city, with Amazon, or with Wal-Mart, which received more than 2,000 applications for about 300 jobs.
City officials want to do what they can to help.
"We can't make them hire local residents, though we encourage that," Molina said. "But we can help make sure that people who apply are qualified for those positions."
Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.
Amazon construction site in Patterson