February 23, 2024
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Amazon job axe hangs over region

By Jorge Mercado

Staff Writer 

Amazon’s massive layoffs could hit the Central Coast soon.

News reports have said the company’s Nov. 14 announcement of 10,000 layoffs would include divisions with significant outposts in the Tri-County area.

The world’s largest retailer’s facilities include warehouse and distribution centers in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, as well as key technology centers in the downtowns of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. 

While Amazon said its retail workers would be spared, Santa Barbara’s State Street houses an Amazon Alexa research unit. Two divisions targeted for cuts, according to the reports from the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, are Alexa and research.  

Asked by the Business Times about layoffs in the region, an Amazon spokesman forwarded a statement by Dave Limp, SVP of Devices and Services to employees in which he did not mention localities, but said,”some roles will no longer be required.”

This would be the latest blow to the Central Coast tech industry and economy, as the technology sector undergoes widespread retrenchment. 

Earlier this month, San Luis Obispo-headquartered MindBody, a fitness industry software provider, said it would cut an unspecified of employees. A source confirmed to the Business Times online chatter of 400 layoffs at the company. 

In Santa Barbara, Impact, a based digital marketing platform, shed 10% of its workforce in August.

But the latest move by Amazon may not be bad news for everyone. 

One beneficiary of its cuts at its Echo smart speaker unit could be Santa Barbara-based competitor Sonos, Inc. Sonos, having already largely withstood challenges from both Amazon’s Echo and Apple in the smart speaker space, could pounce on the opportunity to pick up talent shed by its competitors, and expand its product line. 

Sonos did not respond to request for comment.

A Ventura city official said city officials had not heard of any specific layoffs, but added that while Ventura does not have an Amazon storefront or workplace, many of Amazon workers commute from the city to the Oxnard and Camarillo facilities.

“It’s always a hard time when people go through layoffs,” Meredith Hart, Ventura’s economic development manager said.  

A city official of Camarillo, home to an Alexa logistics facility, said he had not heard of any layoffs at the unit, but wanted to remain optimistic. 

“We’ve got a lot of development potential,” said George Winkler, Camarillo’s economic development manager. “So, we have a lot of positive outlook on the future.”

Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo officials did not return calls.