Walmart Distribution Center - 10 Years Later
April 11, 2014
I got a call yesterday from Jim Sewell, a Port of Grandview Commissioner who was also the City's administrator for many years. He reminded me that Walmart's distribution center opened ten years ago and that the Port was organizing a small celebration. The news brought back some vivid memories surrounding the biggest business recruitment project our office has ever been involved with. The wooing of Walmart was unique in several respects:
- The company was initially represented by Yeager Real Estate which turned out to be a fictitious company that was a cover for Carter Burgess, a national engineering firm. Yeager turned out to be the name of our site selector's dog.
- The company visited our Valley several times looking at specific sites in the Yakima, Sunnyside and Grandview area. Ironically it honed in on the same site in Grandview that it liked years earlier when the company was scouting for location for another distribution center that ultimately located in Hermiston.
- Walmart almost nixed the Grandview site when the property owner refused to sign their Arkansas option agreement. Her push back worked and the company signed a better contract. Company executives were on a plane heading to Pasco within hours of resolving this issue.
- The communities of Grandview, Sunnyside and Prosser all helped host Walmart executives on their final tour. Later the company acknowledged that the spirit of cooperation was a key factor behind their decision to locate the project in a smaller community (versus its other option in Pasco).
- Our team had to overcome Governor Gary Locke's proposed Ergonomics rule. Walmart threatened to go to Oregon unless the state provided them assurances that their new distribution center would be in compliance with the proposed rule (which was never implemented).
- Locke helped the cause by letting Walmart stay self insured if the company located its project in Washington. The company was in danger of losing self insurance as a result of poor performance by its third party insurer.
- The wooing of Walmart lasted over two years from the initial contact to the final decision. When I shared the final news that we won the project with Sewell and Port Commissioner Colleen Byam I seriously thought they were going to get in a car accident.
Walmart invested over $40 million to build its 800,000+ square foot facility in Grandview. Today the center employs over 600 and workers typically make $35-40,000 a year. The impacts and benefits of this operation are felt up and down our Valley - and Walmart stands as one of the largest recruitment projects to locate in Eastern Washington over the last 25 years.
We have outlined the distribution's center's economic impacts here. To learn more about the center itself, click here.
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