State - INACTIVE

Patterson distribution center to start hiring Tuesday

PATTERSON — The massive new Grainger distribution center in Patterson will start hiring the first of 150 full-time employees Tuesday.

That's good news a region that has been battered since the housing market collapse by foreclosures, business failures and job losses — unemployment is more 17 percent and rising.

But job seekers must act fast to have a chance to be hired: Online applications may be cut off by Wednesday morning.

The jobs will pay "above $13 per hour," according to Linda Fermin, the Patterson facility's human resources manager. She said 45 distribution center associates will start work April 25, another will 45 will start in May and 60 more will start in August.

"There are a lot of people who are looking for jobs, but we're offering careers," Fermin said. "We want people who want careers with Grainger."

Grainger is North America's leading supplier of maintenance, repair and operating products with $7.2 billion in sales last year. It is a Fortune 500 corporation with 18,000 employees.

The company is nearing completion on a $50 million distribution center on 46 acres in Patterson's KeyStone West Business Park. The 820,000-square-foot facility will house more than 300,000 different items for sale to businesses and government agencies.

Grainger's arrival is one of the few positive signs of job growth in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

The widespread impact of the recession in the Central Valley has made it harder for industries to claw back. What started in housing and construction has spread across almost every industry from health care to retail and now the public sector.

Valley economists don't expect conditions to improve until later next year, if then. They stress that job grow it the key to any recovery for the region but saw little chance existing businesses would start hiring again and few opportunities attract new employers to the region.

So the hiring at Grainger provides the valley a needed boost.

The positions opening Tuesday will be for the employees who will unload, sort, scan, put away, pick out and pack those items for shipment to customers.

"It's hard work. They've got to have a lot of energy," Fermin said. Those workers will have to be on their feet all day and lift up to 70 pounds. "It's not a sit-down job."

The company also is searching for several managers, and it eventually will employ assorted additional workers at the distribution center.

Fermin said Grainger offers employees medical, dental, vision and life insurance benefits, a profit-sharing plan, 18 days of paid vacation or sick days per year and six paid holidays.

She said most employees will work 40-hours per week on staggered shifts from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

"There definitely are opportunities for advancement for our employees," Fermin said.

Getting employed there, however, requires making it through numerous tests and interviews.

The first step starts at 7 a.m. Tuesday when the company's employment Web site — www.ExperienceDone.com — will launch a special section to register people interested in Patterson jobs.

Fermin said everyone who applies during the first 24 hours will be considered. If fewer than 500 applications are received the first day, the registration period will be extended.

Only Internet applications will be accepted, and job candidates must complete an online questionnaire about their work experience and attitudes. Fermin said that questionnaire offers "productivity indicators" that Grainger will use to screen applicants.

For those who make the initial cut, there will be assorted written, health and background tests and one-on-one interviews to pass.

"We have people every day coming to the construction site asking when we'll be hiring," Fermin said. The building isn't complete, and the company doesn't want the public on the construction site. So job seekers must go online. "We're trying to make this easy and simple for applicants."

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jnsbranti@modbee.com or 578-2196.

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