United Natural Foods chose Sturtevant in preparation for growth, CFO says

2012-12-15T22:29:00Z 2014-01-23T06:39:18Z United Natural Foods chose Sturtevant in preparation for growth, CFO saysMICHAEL BURKE mburke@journaltimes.com Journal Times

STURTEVANT — Fast-growing United Natural Foods was looking to the future when it selected this village as the place to build a $32 million distribution center, according to company Chief Financial Officer Mark Shamber.

On Monday, the Village Board approved a development deal with United Natural Foods Inc. for UNFI to build a 425,000-square-foot distribution center at the southwest corner of highways 11 and H. The project, expected to start next summer, should create at least 220 and perhaps up to 244 jobs.

Speaking by phone Friday from UNFI’s headquarters in Providence, R.I., Shamber noted the publicly traded company’s revenues grew by almost 16 percent in its last fiscal year, to $5.24 billion. They grew by almost 21 percent the year before that.

In the Midwest, UNFI now distributes to Whole Foods stores, conventional supermarkets and independents from Iowa City, Iowa, and Greenwood, Ind., Shamber said. Those centers are adequate for now, but likely not for much longer.

“At a certain point, you can only put so much volume through a facility till you become inefficient,” he said. The Iowa City center is landlocked and not expandable, he said, and Greenwood has limited expansion capacity.

UNFI, which calls itself “America’s premier certified organic distributor,” examined about a dozen potential sites on paper for a new facility, and actually looked at about a half-dozen, Shamber said.

Sturtevant’s location between Chicago and Milwaukee made it ideally situated for UNFI, he said.

Using its tax increment finance district, Sturtevant also sweetened the pot with $6 million in incentives to acquire the land, install infrastructure and pay necessary fees.

The new center here will be expandable to as much as 650,000 to 750,000 square feet if needed, Shamber said.

24-6 operation

Although logistical details are far from settled, the Sturtevant center will likely serve all of Wisconsin, the greater Chicago area, and possibly Minneapolis and parts of Michigan, Shamber said.

It could have anywhere from 18,000 to 30,000 shopkeeping units, or individual product items. The center will operate every day but Sunday, around the clock.

Major portions will be coolers for fresh or frozen food, Shamber said. About 35 percent of products come in as perishable (23 percent) or frozen (12 percent). Those will be stored in floor-to-ceiling coolers until shipped out again.

Job categories to be filled will include receiving, order-filling, inventory control, quality assurance, supervisory, managerial, human resources and janitorial, Shamber said. The vast majority of jobs will be full time, and he said most will be at family-supporting wages — although the company does not publicly divulge specific wage figures.

There is another component to UNFI’s local job creation: the construction project. If anything, the $32 million cost estimate for the new distribution center may be too low; Shamber said the midpoint has been about $50 million. And $32 million was considered conservative.

Like other centers UNFI has built, this one will be built to the LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Gold standard.

In all, UNFI has about 7,000 employees with 21 U.S. distribution centers and five in Canada, Shamber said. It delivers to about 23,000 retail customers with an array of more than 65,000 different product items.

In 2006-10 and 2012 Fortune magazine ranked UNFI as one of its “Most Admired Companies.” The company also has a charitable foundation. UNFI is traded on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange as UNFI.

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(3) Comments

  1. M2O
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    M2O - January 24, 2014 8:40 am
    Awesome!!!! A healthier Wisconsin! Really want to work here!
  2. mfirebrand1
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    mfirebrand1 - June 13, 2013 3:09 pm
    I hope they carry the Imagine food line. The closest place to get it now is Woodmans. this is good news for a change.
  3. Westsider
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    Westsider - December 16, 2012 1:34 pm
    It's great to see a corporation recognize the strategic location of our area.
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