PATTERSON — A massive distribution center will be built here, creating as many as 200 permanent jobs, plus hundreds of construction jobs while it's being built.
W.W. Grainger Inc. will open an 820,000-square-foot distribution center on 46 acres in Patterson's KeyStone West Business Park.
The Fortune 500 company bought the land this week and expects construction to begin in September. The center is scheduled to open in mid-2011.
The project, announced Tuesday, was a tightly held secret during more than a year of planning and negotiations. All government approvals have been secured, according to Patterson city officials.
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It will be one of the largest construction projects on the West Coast, the business park's developer said.
"Right now in this economy, building something of this size is very rare anywhere in the country," said John Dobrott, senior vice president of Illinois-based McShane Development Co.
The developer's construction company will build the center, which will be big enough to hold 14 football fields complete with end zones. The inside will have 32-foot-high ceilings.
Selection of subcontractors has begun, and Dobrott estimated that 80 percent of the work will be awarded to Stanislaus and San Joaquin county businesses. He estimated that a few hundred tradespeople will be involved in construction.
Grainger and McShane officials wouldn't reveal the project cost, other than to confirm that it will require a substantial investment.
"These are opportunistic times ... to make investments in business," said Brian Williams, Grainger's regional director of distribution. When the economy rebounds, he said, the new distribution center will enable Grainger to expand.
Grainger already is huge. Last year, its sales reached $6.9 billion. It distributes maintenance supplies to 1.8 million businesses in 153 countries. It has 18,000 employees, 3,000 suppliers, 617 branches (including one in Ceres) and 18 distribution centers (including one in San Jose).
350,000 industrial supply products
The Patterson center will be among Grainger's largest and most technologically advanced. It will house more than 350,000 industrial supply products — such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, hand and power tools, and electrical and safety supplies — for distribution to West Coast businesses.
Williams said his company will start out hiring 150 to 200 full- and part-time employees in mid-2011.
"We know we're going to grow, and jobs are going to grow (in Patterson) as well," Williams predicted. Grainger's distribution center will provide 180,000 square feet for future expansion.
What Grainger will pay workers is being determined. But Williams assured that wages will be competitive and "definitely above minimum wage," and that the jobs will come with comprehensive benefits and promotion opportunities.
Most workers will be warehouse and logistics employees. Williams said "order picking" will be one of the center's core jobs, and those who have experience operating power industrial equipment will be sought.
"These are quality jobs," said Bill Bassitt, who heads the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance.
Bassitt noted that an estimated 40,000 Stanislaus County workers are unemployed, so 150 to 200 new jobs may not sound significant.
"But this is encouraging because it shows there are positive things happening here. All is not lost," he said. "Hopefully, it will get other companies to consider this area for their West Coast developments."
Williams said his company picked Patterson in part because of its great highway access and proximity to the Bay Area, Sacramento and Pacific Northwest. He said Grainger gets quite a few of its products from Asia, which are shipped to West Coast ports such as Oakland.
In addition to its location, Patterson had an edge in landing the distribution center because the developer previously had secured the rights to build it.
"The project already has its approvals," said Bryan Whitemyer, Patterson's assistant city manager.
Approvals already in place
The McShane company got three giant distribution-type buildings approved a couple of years ago after it bought 122 acres from Keystone Pacific Business Park and created KeyStone West Business Park.
One of those buildings is finished, but it has yet to be bought or permanently occupied. The Grainger building will be built next to it, and space for the third building is on the other side.
"Patterson has gone overboard to encourage industrial development and have sites ready to go," Bassitt said. He praised the city for securing the water, sewer and industrial land necessary to meet business needs. "And when (project proposals) come to them, Patterson has a very streamlined approval process."
"We try to be competitive," Whitemyer said. To help secure the Grainger deal, he said the city agreed to lower its building inspection fees and to expedite plan checks.
Whitemyer said virtually no new homes have been built in the city in the past 18 months.
For more information about construction jobs for subcontractors, Dobrott said information is posted at www.McShane.com in the McShane Construction section.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2196.