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2017-09-22 / News

Warehousing and distribution plays key role in Pennsylvania economy

BY R. BROCK PRONKO
Regional Business Analyst

Next August, the Bedford Walmart General Distribution Center will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its opening in Bedford, Pa. The center employs 800 workers, a significant figure for Bedford County, which has experienced a net outmigration of residents.

The Bedford “DC” is one of 173 Walmart distribution centers and Sam’s Club distribution centers in the U.S, which total 125.8 million square feet of warehouse space. Next year, Walmart plans to build four more distribution centers and is now hiring loaders, unloaders, order fillers, maintenance technicians, multi-skilled technicians, an area manager, and an assistant general manager for its existing centers.

The Bedford distribution center also continues to grow.

“Walmart had a strong 2016, we hired 250 new associates,” said Gary Brasseau, the general manager of the Bedford Walmart General Distribution Center.

“Our momentum has carried over to this year, and we continue to hire new associates to support our growth.”

In addition to creating jobs at its warehouse, the center also supports many local businesses that deliver goods and services to the center.

“Beyond the 800 job opportunities that Walmart created in Bedford County, Schneider Trucking, in support of our business, has created another 150 jobs,” said Brasseur.

In 1998, the Governor’s Action Team in Harrisburg sent an announcement to industrial development organizations across the state that Walmart was looking to locate a major distribution center in Pennsylvania.

“We submitted our site to the Governor’s Action Team, and that’s how we got on the radar of both Walmart and REI, which also located a large distribution center here,” said Bette Slayton, president and CEO of the Bedford County Development Association.

REI, which stands for Recreational Equipment, Inc., headquartered in Kent, Washington, is a multi-billion-dollar retail and outdoor recreation company with 154 retail stores in 36 states. It also receives orders through its catalogs and the Internet.

Walmart and REI looked at several factors when deciding where to locate its distribution centers. A major factor was proximity to major highways.

“Bedford is within a day’s drive of half the U.S. population, and within a two-and-a- half-hour drive of Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Harrisburg, so we’re right in the heart of it,” said Slayton.

“We’re also blessed to be the gateway to the 1-99 corridor, and our county has two turnpike exits – one in Bedford and one in Breezewood.”

The third factor was choosing a location that had a reputation for high-quality workers.

“The central Pennsylvania corridor has long been known for having some of the best work ethics in the country, and our associates are the reason we won distribution center of the year six times,” said Brasseur.

REI echoed the sentiment.

“We were looking for an amazing workforce and we found this here in Bedford County,” said Tina Molski, director of operations-DC East for REI.

“We have found employees that work hard, share their ideas and have a sincere desire to succeed personally as well as help us succeed as a business.”

Smith Transport, headquartered in Roaring Spring, Pa., is distribution and trucking company that has also benefited from locating in Bedford County.

“Our central Pennsylvania distribution centers allow Smith Transport to experience next day access to nearly fifty percent of the United States population,” said Grove Dickson, VP of Information Technology at Smith Transport, which has a 300,000-square-foot facility in Bedford Township.

“Through this location our company utilized the completed 1-99 to provide next day service to the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Carolinas and Mid-West Chicago. .

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