SPARTANBURG, S.C. — June 1 marked the opening of Rite Aid Corp.’s first new distribution center in 16 years.
The mammoth, state-of-the-art facility sits on 97 acres here, with an ideal location near Interstate 85 between Highways 9 and 221, providing the company easy access to these major transportation arteries and the more than 1,000 stores that the new center will service across 12 states.
The Spartanburg distribution center — the company’s 12th — will help consolidate three other Rite Aid facilities, including the Charlotte center in neighboring North Carolina as well as the centers in Alabama and West Virginia.
Senior operations manager Bill deBorde and senior facilities manager Bob Miceli led the dignitaries, media and other guests on a tour of the facility, which was up and running. The distribution center began receiving goods in February and began shipping operations in May. The company said the center will be in full swing by summer 2017.
The opening of the 900,000-square-foot, $90 million facility, which Rite Aid had announced plans to build last year, signifies a major financial turnaround for the company, according to Ken Martindale, president of Rite Aid and chief executive officer of stores.
The center has already brought 250 jobs to the area, according to senior vice president of supply chain Wilson Lester, and another 600 are expected to be added over the next two years.
Martindale and Lester were joined at the ribbon cutting by other company executives as well as business leaders and elected officials from across the state, including Rite Aid chairman and CEO John Standley; senior vice president and chief communications officer Susan Henderson; South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt; and the state’s attorney general, Alan Wilson.
The new facility, Martindale said, is environmentally friendly, featuring high-efficiency LED and T5 fluorescent light fixtures and occupancy sensor-controlled warehouse lighting; an on-site truck maintenance facility, including a fueling station, trailer weigh scale and wash area; high-speed automated palletizers; ergonomically designed manual palletizing stations and automatic label applicators; a state-of-the-art warehouse and labor management system; voice-pick technology; and 60,000 square feet of office space, including an associate cafeteria, fitness center and other amenities.
Miceli pointed out that along with traditional forklifts to handle heavy loads, the facility’s automated palletizers and wrapping machines will help speed up deliveries by making loading trucks more efficient.
Along with its central location and proximity to I-85, Martindale said Rite Aid chose South Carolina because of the state’s “business friendly” environment, a sentiment echoed by Wilson. “Rite Aid rewarded South Carolina because they saw something in our state,” Wilson said. “They saw us as a good place for business.” Wilson added that the opening of the distribution center was another sign the state “was moving in the right direction.”
Standley said, “We’re excited to celebrate the grand opening of our newest distribution center in Spartanburg, our first in 16 years. Featuring highly efficient and advanced technologies, this facility will play a crucial role in our company’s supply chain, supporting more than 1,000 Rite Aid stores across the southeastern United States, and help us deliver a superior customer experience.”
Hitt highlighted transportation as an important element in South Carolina’s identification as a state for business. “As a state with a dynamic transportation, distribution and logistics sector, we’re proud to see yet another nationally recognized company establish distribution operations within our borders,” he said. “I look forward to watching them succeed here for many years to come.”
Though she didn’t attend the event, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley noted in a statement that the facility will bring approximately 600 new jobs to the state. In South Carolina, Rite Aid employs 1,531 people at its 91 stores and distribution center.
Rite Aid worked with Johnson Development Associates, a Spartanburg-based real estate development firm, to design and build the new facility.
As part of the grand opening celebration, the Rite Aid Foundation presented a $25,000 donation to Boys & Girls Clubs of the Upstate.