Amazon says it will occupy a 600,000-square-foot warehouse being developed near Spokane's airport, the online-retail giant's first distribution center in Eastern Washington.

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Amazon said Friday that it is building a 600,000-square-foot warehouse in Spokane, the online-retail giant’s first distribution center in Eastern Washington.

The new facility, near the city’s airport, will employ about 1,500 people after it opens  sometime next year. It joins more than two dozen new U.S. warehouses Amazon has commissioned in the last two years, part of an effort to cut the time and cost of delivering packages ordered online and cement the company’s wide lead in e-commerce over brick-and-mortar retailers.

Amazon is one of Washington’s largest employers. The company’s sprawling headquarters in Seattle early this year topped 45,000 employees, and more than 4,000 people work in logistics and distribution facilities in DuPont, Kent and Sumner.

The company’s venture east of the Cascades was something of an open secret.  Plans for a development near Spokane International Airport called “Project Rose” fit the profile of Amazon’s distribution facilities, though before Friday the company hadn’t confirmed its role.

Like most new Amazon warehouses, the Spokane facility will make use of Amazon robotics: the squat, orange, self-driving units that take tightly packed shelves of items to waiting human employees. The building — one in a new-generation design of fulfillment centers, as Amazon calls its warehouses — will have four levels of robotics-aided storage and processing, said Lauren Lynch, an Amazon spokeswoman.

The facility, under construction, sits on 80 acres of land between the airport and Interstate 90, part of a larger area that the airport and city and county of Spokane have worked to develop, said Al French, a Spokane County commissioner.

“We’re very excited about getting them here,” French said. To accommodate Amazon, French said the government was widening an access road, building pedestrian walkways and a bike lane, and extending utility connections to the site.

Spokane was among the 238 regions that submitted proposals last year to host Amazon’s second headquarters. The city — which fell short of a population threshold and other requirements Amazon had set out in its criteria — was a long shot, and didn’t make the cut of 20 finalist areas that Amazon says it will select from sometime this year.

But French said he suspected Amazon’s familiarity with Spokane played a role in the company’s selection of the area for a depot.

“I think because of that application, and because we were able to make our story, we got on their radar,” he said.