Kansas City, KS: Associated Wholesale Grocers has broken ground on its seventh full-line grocery distribution center — a 720,000-square-foot warehouse in Pearl River, LA, 20 miles north of New Orleans, that will service retailers across the South from Houston to Tallahassee and into Georgia.
With over 720,000-square-foot of space, AWG Gulf Coast division will carry essentially everything an independent supermarket operator needs for its customers. Categories include: dry grocery, frozen food, ice cream, dairy, fluid milk, meat, fresh seafood, produce, floral, bakery, deli, and supplies.
Overall the facility will stock approximately 19,000 SKUs and is scheduled to open in January 2013, which will service AWG's new Gulf Coast division, encompassing: Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida — states in which the cooperative already has 40 members operating approximately 135 stores. Most of them are serviced out of the AWG facility in Southaven, MS, a suburb of Memphis, TN, located 400 miles from Pearl River.
AWG says it expects the facility to enable customers to save more than $6 million annually in freight costs, as well as to provide better availability of fresh foods and locally grown products. The Pearl River facility is located along Interstate 10 at the intersection of Interstates 59 and 12, which provides great accessibility to independents across the Deep South, the company points out.
According to Jerry Garland, AWG president and chief executive officer: "We're excited about the future of our new Gulf Coast division and the potential for growth and expansion by our members in this dynamic region of the country. As a cooperative, we have a responsibility to our members to provide the best available food and related products at the lowest possible cost and this new division will significantly lower the cost of groceries to member stores and expand our abilities to further achieve that goal for our members and future members in this region."
AWG plans to employ 290 new employees around January 2013. The 290 full-time jobs will average roughly $40,000 a year.
"You're talking about probably a $20 million dollar a year payroll, just for those 300 jobs to the area," says Rep. Kevin Pearson, a Slidell Republican who represents much of the Pearl River area. "Those are homes. Those are people who are going to live here."
"You see different infusions of cash," states Brenda Reine-Bertus of the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation. "You see the cash from the construction, which certainly is going to be realized in the whole area, and then you see the jobs."