United Natural Foods starting to hire 220 for Sturtevant center

2014-01-23T06:37:00Z 2014-02-12T07:20:15Z United Natural Foods starting to hire 220 for Sturtevant centerMICHAEL BURKE mburke@journaltimes.com Journal Times

RACINE COUNTY — United Natural Foods has started hiring 220 people to run its new Sturtevant distribution center now under construction.

The 425,000-square-foot distribution center is taking shape at the southwest corner of highways 11 and H. Chief Financial Officer Mark Shamber estimated the total cost of building and outfitting the center will be $38 million to $40 million.

Providence, R.I.-based UNFI is a wholesaler of natural, organic and specialty products. Its largest customer is Whole Foods Market; other customers include conventional supermarkets including the Safeway and Kroger chains and independents.

This distribution center will serve Wisconsin, the Chicago area, the Upper Peninsula and possibly western parts of Minnesota, UNFI officials said. The center will carry well over 20,000 separate product items.

The company is scheduled to start shipping products from the center on June 15. To help assemble the initial workforce, on Wednesday UNFI held three employee recruitment sessions at the Racine County Workforce Development Center, 1717 Taylor Ave.

Jeffrey Graham of UNFI, company project manager for human relations and organizational development, said total employment at the center could reach 261 within five years.

The initial workforce of 220 includes 35 management or administrative positions. The rest include people to work a product-receiving shift, selectors, inventory-control people, loaders and drivers.

“At first we will probably run 8-hour shifts,” Graham said. “In some (distribution centers) we run 10-hour shifts for receiving or selecting.”

The warehouse pay scale is $13 to $17 hourly depending on experience. All new jobs are full-time, and UNFI offers a full benefit package including a 401(k) matching program, tuition reimbursement and product discounts at 25 percent off wholesale.

Perhaps a year after the center starts operations, Graham said, UNFI will start offering to pay for volunteer activities. The center will have one committee to direct philanthropic efforts and another, a “green team,” to focus on environmental causes.

UNFI started hiring the center’s leadership team in December, and their start date is March 3, Graham said.

The company also will hold “major hiring events” March 5 and 6, April 11 and 12 and June 4 and 5 at sites yet to be announced. All applications are being made online at www.unfi.com, although walk-ins will also be accepted at those hiring events, he said.

UNFI is a publicly traded company with $6.0 billion in revenues in its last fiscal year. In its last 15 or 16 quarters, revenues have been growing at 10 to 15 percent on a year-over-year basis, Shamber said.

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