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Apr. 16—Officials with Casey's General Store put on a grand opening ceremony Thursday morning for the convenience store chain's $62 million distribution center.
"When we explored potential sites for our distribution center, we quickly realized we were going to have a really good fit here in Joplin," said Darren Rebelez, Casey's president and chief executive officer, speaking to a large audience that included most of the center's 125 Joplin-area workers.
The Joplin area "really checked all the boxes for us. It's been a longtime hometown for Casey's stores, (has) a strong workforce and a commitment to education with plenty of resources."
Described as a "pretty good-looking building" by Rebelez, the 200,000-square-foot center — adjacent to the junction of interstates 49 and 44 in Joplin, just north of Route FF, or 32nd Street — represents the single largest investment by a single company in Joplin since the tornado rebuilding efforts of 2011.
The distribution center will serve as a key component in the company's plan to accelerate store growth over the next two years.
"With this center, we are deepening our commitment to Joplin," Rebelez said. "We're here for the long haul."
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, who traveled from Jefferson City to attend the ceremony, said bringing high-quality and good-paying jobs to Missouri communities has been his No. 1 priority from the moment he assumed office.
A former convenience store owner himself, he said he still remembers the day when a brand-new station named Casey's opened opposite his own store. At the time, he called the company and its country stores a "fly-by-night" operation that would never be able to beat out a "hometown guy" like himself.
"So after a few more years of denial," Parson said, pausing as laughter rippled throughout the crowd, "I decided I better take a different profession instead of competing against Casey's."
The fact that Casey's built and opened its third distribution center less than five years since the second one was built in Terre Haute, Indiana, serves as a testament to the company's continued success and growth, Parson said.
"It's pretty impressive when you get to drive around every day and see the impact Casey's has had in the state of Missouri," he said. The company's longstanding and growing presence "has provided opportunities to thousands of Missourians across the state."
The new distribution center will serve 400 to 600 of the company's 2,200 stores, Rebelez said. The company, which is based in Ankeny, Iowa, has 500 of those stores in Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas alone. Ten stores currently operate within Joplin city limits, with many more established in the outlying communities.
"We know Casey's has a big enough footprint that they could have (gone) anywhere, but they chose Joplin," Parson said, "which tells a lot about the people living in this community."
Casey's fielded offers to build its warehouse in Springfield, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Wichita, Kansas, officials said Thursday, but Joplin was ultimately chosen due to its workforce and location near interstates 44 and 49.
"What's happening more and more is there are distribution centers and manufacturing facilities where an international conglomerate will have sites across the world, including here in Joplin, and the Joplin site outperforms all the other sites," Toby Teeter, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, said after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"We've doing a lot of (developing) in Joplin recently, and we've been winning more than we've been losing, and I feel good about that," Joplin Mayor Ryan Stanley said.
Joplin's ongoing relationship with Casey's remains strong.
"Five years ago, we all saw some of the most prime corners in this town get purchased by Casey's, with brand-new stores built or developed, and Casey's has had long-standing investments and commitments to the city of Joplin," Stanley said. "Joplin, right now, is attracting some of the (best) retailers in the country, and Casey's absolutely falls into that category.
"Casey's could have gone anywhere — it's such a blessing to have them continue to invest in Joplin. This is a good day for Joplin."