The $69 million Mills Fleet Farm distribution center in Chippewa Falls sent off a fleet of trucks Monday – the first few of many trucks departing the Lake Wissota Business Park to deliver product to 37 Fleet Farm stores across Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North Dakota.
The facility, just over 1.1 million square feet, saw a wrap on construction in December and began receiving goods in January.
Before the farewell, Fleet Farm’s chief supply chain officer Rich Tannenbaum spoke to a crowd of approximately 40 employees and community leaders, who toured the building Monday.
“When we began this project one year ago, we knew we had set a very ambitious target to have this facility up and running just one year later,” Tannenbaum said. “But for the incredible partnership with the county, economic development and the city of Chippewa Falls, we have done it.”
The center – which Tannenbaum called Fleet Farm’s “flagship operation” – will provide 325 jobs once the facility is fully operational. Just over 100 employees already work at the Chippewa Falls facility, Tannenbaum said; he expects that number to grow each month throughout 2018.
Employees – who work through DHL Supply Chain of Germany – must be paid hourly wages of at least $15.60 per hour; the company must hire at least 239 full-time employees by Sept. 1, a deal with the city said.
Both Tannenbaum and Chippewa Falls Mayor Greg Hoffman commented on the speed of the project. Construction began in March 2017, Tannenbaum said, and finished just nine months later in December.
“One of the satisfactions of being an elected official … is seeing a project come together,” Hoffman said, addressing the crowd Monday afternoon. “To have this come together so quickly really is amazing.”
The roughly 72-acre site was chosen with expansion in mind, Tannenbaum said. The building is able to expand an additional 200,000 square feet to the east.
The facility garnered statewide attention in 2017. Gov. Scott Walker’s office listed the facility as the state’s ninth largest economic development project in 2017. That top ten list also included Foxconn Technology Group and a Kwik Trip expansion in La Crosse.
Under the deal, the city of Chippewa Falls will provide $10 million in tax increment financing to the project: $7.3 million in a grant, $1.29 million for the land purchase and the remainder in sewer, water, and stormwater extensions.
Both the city and the greater Chippewa Valley are excited with the distribution’s center “size and scope,” Hoffman told the crowd Monday.
“We intend to be a strong, local, active community partner for many years to come,” Tannenbaum added.