MANKATO — After years of recession-driven delays, Wal-Mart made the highly anticipated announcement Tuesday that it will open a new distribution center in Mankato in late 2015, possibly breaking ground this year.
The center, which will store and distribute perishables such as produce to Wal-Mart stores in the Upper Midwest, will be 420,000-square-foot building that will employ 300 people, most of them in full-time positions.
The company still plans to add a dry-box building to the distribution center in the future, which would add another 400,000 square feet. No timeline on that portion of the project has been set, city officials said.
The perishable portion is the high-value part of the distribution center with a high level of mechanization, refrigeration and freezing, city officials said.
“The Mankato distribution center will play an important role in Wal-Mart’s ability to serve customers in the region,” said Kevin X. Jones, divisional vice president of supply chain, in an interview with The Free Press.
“This is really a defining moment for us,” said Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges, saying the major project helps elevate Mankato as a strong regional center in the Upper Midwest.
Mayor Eric Anderson said the wait has been a long one with Wal-Mart purchasing the land on the northeast edge of Mankato in 2005.
“It’s wonderful. Obviously there’s been a lot of anticipation going way back,” Anderson said. “I think probably some people dismissed that it would happen.”
Paul Vogel, Mankato community development director, has ushered the project along since Wal-Mart first came to town, announced they would build a center to be open in 2008, then pulled back when the recession hit.
“This confirms Mankato has a business-friendly development process,” Vogel said. “We’ve done a lot of work planning out this northeast area along with partners like the county.”