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Save-A-Lot warehouse holds grand opening
 

BY VIKKI BROUGHTON HODGES
The Dispatch

Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 3:18 p.m.

 

Fast-growing discount grocery chain Save-A-Lot held a grand opening Wednesday for its new $24 million food distribution center in the Lexington Business Center attended by local government officials and business leaders, including Davidson County Economic Development Commission Chairman Tommy Hedrick, Davidson County Commissioners' Chairman Sam Watford and Lexington Mayor John Walser.
 

John Gerber, Save-A-Lot's vice president of distribution, thanked all the local and state parties involved in the project, noting the plans for the 330,000-square-foot warehouse date back about eight years ago when initial contacts were made with Steve Googe, Davidson County EDC executive director.
 

"This site is perfectly located to serve our North and South Carolina customers," Gerber said, adding that the distribution center will initially supply 77 stores in the two states.

 

Gerber said about 15 associates from other Save-A-Lot warehouses transferred to the new Lexington facility to get operations off the ground and train new employees, who will initially number about 35. Most jobs are for material handlers and forklift operators.

 

"We will have 50 full-time associates by Feb. 1," Gerber said, adding that Hogan Transportation Co., the chain's dedicated third-party trucking partner, will initially hire about 25 local drivers and some administrative personnel who will work out of an office at the distribution center.

 

"We can triple our capacity here," Gerber said, noting that typically an additional employee is added at distribution centers for each new store opened in its service area. "It's almost proportional to store growth. And this market's been very good."

 

Save-A-Lot has nearly 1,300 stores in 39 states and announced this summer the company plans to expand to 2,400 stores by 2015. There are about 30 Save-A-Lot stores in North Carolina now, including one in Lexington on Talbert Boulevard, and the company said it plans to open three more stores in the state by March 2012.

 

Gerber also noted he was pleased that the building, where construction was started in January, was not only completed two months ahead of schedule but also significantly under budget.

"And this is our most green facility," he said, noting the state-of-the-art building features the latest in green, energy-saving technologies, including lights that only operate when a person is present and an HVAC system with smart thermostats. He said these technologies will allow the warehouse to use only 60 percent of the energy needed to run similar-size facilities.

 

The distribution center project is the result of collaboration with the state of North Carolina and its One North Carolina Fund, the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Davidson County and the City of Lexington.

 

Dale Carroll, deputy secretary of the N.C. Department of Commerce and a Denton native, noted that the Save-A-Lot project is just one of several new industries announced in the county the past couple of years, including TIMCO, Vitacost.com and United Furniture, that have brought or will bring 1,000 new jobs.

 

Walser called the project "the capstone of investment in the Lexington Business Center," which the city, county and EnergyUnited established about 20 years ago. He noted there are about 600 jobs provided by tenants in the business center just off Interstate 85. Watford praised company officials for bringing "enthusiasm, commitment and opportunity" to the area.

 

To commemorate the opening of the new distribution center, Save-A-Lot officials also presented checks of $5,000 each to Pastor's Pantry and Communities in Schools of Lexington/Davidson Country.

 

Lucinda Perry, community and government relations manager for the company, said Save-A-Lot wants to join in partnership with local nonprofits fighting hunger, not only through donations but also encouraging employees to volunteer to work with such agencies. Burr Sullivan, president of the Lexington Area Chamber of Commerce, introduced Perry and other Save-A-Lot executives to nonprofit leaders about a month ago to see where the company could contribute locally.

 

Bill Keesler, executive director of Pastor's Pantry, said the company also gave the nonprofit $5,000 worth of Save-A-Lot gift cards last year when the company opened its store on Talbert Boulevard, which he said helped a lot at a time when donations were down due to the economy.

 

"We spent that in one day last year, but we'll probably wait until January to use it this time because that's when food donations really drop off," he said. "People are generous now because of the holidays."

 

Keesler said the agency is now up to 550 clients in 370 households, with an average of 35 to 50 emergency cases monthly.

 

"This is going to be a real help," he said, noting that many of the seniors served by the nonprofit also have unemployed grown children as well as grandchildren in their households.

 

Christina Cooley Howell, executive director of Communities in Schools of Lexington/Davidson Country, said the donation will be used for the backpack programs at the six schools in the Lexington system. The program sends eligible children home with a backpack filled with food for the weekend.

 

"And they are encouraging their employees to volunteer with us as lunch buddies," she said of CIS' mentoring program.

 

St. Louis-based Save-A-Lot is an independent but wholly owned subsidiary of SUPERVALU Inc., a Fortune 100 company.

 

For more information on the company, go to the company website at www.save-a-lot.com.

 

Vikki Broughton Hodges can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 214, or at vikki.hodges@the-dispatch.com.


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