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It looks like Amazon has much bigger plans for the Wichita area than one warehouse

Tuesday, July 7 2020 9:25 AM

The news that Amazon is bringing a 140,000-square-foot warehouse to Wichita was big, but the company apparently has some much bigger news to come in Park City, which may include Neodesha’s AgEagle Aerial Systems.

No one is talking yet, particularly Park City officials, but there’s a warehouse — with more than 1 million square feet on the main floor and more than 250,000 square feet on the mezzanine level — that is supposed to open by August 2021 at the northeast corner of 69th North and Broadway.

“I don’t know anything about that,” said Park City Mayor Ray Mann.

Requests for proposals to bid on work at the warehouse — dubbed Project Starship — recently were sent to numerous Kansas and out-of-state contractors.

“This RFP is being provided in strict confidence,” states the RFP, which The Wichita Eagle obtained a copy of.

“All communication should be made with Scannell Properties and no attempt shall be made to determine the end user.”

Except Amazon’s name also appears in the document — a reference that someone possibly failed to delete.

In addition, another source confirms seeing the Amazon name on plans.

Scannell, an Illinois-based developer that specializes in Amazon properties, issued the RFP. Scannell senior development manager Chris Miller, who is listed in the RFP, did not return a call for comment.

Replies to the RFP are due by 5 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.

To understand how massive the project is, it may be easier to think in terms of acreage. The property itself is close to 80 acres, almost 25 of which will be the main floor of the building. The mezzanine represents another almost six acres. There are also about 100 docks.

Via e-mail, an Amazon spokesman said the company would not comment.

“Amazon is constantly investigating new locations to support the growth and increase the flexibility of its North American fulfillment network to address customers’ needs, however, the company is not yet commenting on any specific operations plans in Kansas,” Daniel Martin wrote.

Nor did Amazon comment in May when The Wichita Eagle reported that the company will occupy a warehouse at 4044 N. Toben, near 37th North and Rock in northeast Wichita.

Last week, Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple confirmed that news

The announced Wichita warehouse sounds like it will be mostly for larger products. Think big appliances, such as refrigerators and washers and dryers, and sporting goods such as bicycles and kayaks.

It’s not clear how the new warehouse will be used. It could be a standard Amazon distribution center, but it sounds like there may be more to it related to AgEagle. 

No one with the company, which calls itself “an industry leading provider of technologically advanced commercial drones, aerial imagery and data collection and analytics solutions,” is talking. How — or whether — it is involved with the Park City warehouse remains in question. However, signs point to possible involvement.

In an April 15 news release, the company announced “the expansion of scope for its contracted commercial drone work through the receipt of follow-on purchase orders from a major ecommerce company.”

“Representing significant new revenue, the new purchase orders relate to the continued manufacturing and assembly of drones used for the testing and refining of the client’s commercial drone small package delivery vehicles, systems and operations currently in development.”

According to a May SEC filing, AgEagle said that it “plans to relocate its headquarters and manufacturing operations to Wichita, Kansas during the second quarter of this year.” That hasn’t happened yet, nor has the company announced where it is opening.

“I can’t comment at all,” said Bret Chilcott, who founded the company in 2010 and is still with it. “I can’t say anything.”

Chilcott said he would forward a message to new CEO Michael Drozd, who did not return a call for comment.

According to Amazon, Prime Air “is a service that will deliver packages up to five pounds in 30 minutes or less using small drones.”

Part of what is fueling speculation related to Amazon and AgEagle is that around the time of AgEagle’s “major ecommerce company” announcement, there was reportedly a video online showing Chilcott demonstrating how to unload an Amazon drone from its crate.

The video is no longer available, which is furthering speculation.

AgEagle also applied for the trademark “The Drone Age” in May.

One possible catch is that Amazon seems to have a much more immediate launch date in mind for Prime Air, the Business Insider publication said last month.

“An internal timeline seen by Business Insider indicates that a launch date is now set for August 31. But people close to the program say whatever drone service Amazon is able to launch in the near term will amount to little more than a glorified trial in a controlled and extremely limited area.”

Regardless of AgEagle’s potential involvement, the RFP states that the building will be used as a warehouse and non-sort distribution center that will operate 24-7, 52 weeks of the year.

For the better part of two years, there’s been talk in certain circles that Amazon is coming to the Wichita market and that it would come with more than one facility. That included a potential call center of sorts and even a possible connection with Wichita State University, which the school previously denied.

Though a number of questions remain, excitement is building for what’s coming to Park City. It’s a deal that Park City officials seem to be making directly — possibly without local broker involvement.

The approximately 76-acre property where the warehouse will go is going to be a collection of several parcels. It includes a couple of residential properties, a former machine shop and the former Baker Furniture store, where on Tuesday a Park City police vehicle and another city vehicle sat while their occupants visited.

An announcement may be imminent. Look for more details as soon as they’re available.

Article by Carrie Rengers
Original article by The Wichita Eagle:

https://www.kansas.com/news/business/biz-columns-blogs/carrie-rengers/article244039217.html

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