Jan. 13—It was announced on Wednesday morning that REI Co-op plans to build a 400,000-square-foot distribution center on 41 acres of land in Lebanon, which is expected to result in 280 jobs.
"We're super excited about this facility because we're currently a 20-million-member co-op," REI vice president of supply chain Bill Best said. "We aspire to be a 50-million-member co-op by 2030. We're growing. Some of the excitement is known on what the impact will be.
"Tennessee is a beautiful state. We're super excited."
It will be the fourth distribution center for REI, along with centers in Bedford, Pennsylvania; Goodyear, Arizona; and Sumner, Washington.
The Lebanon distribution facility is expected to be operational by the fall of 2023, and it is being built to provide for and replenish 70 stores on the East Coast, in the Midwest and in the South and to fulfill online purchases as well.
REI indicated that it selected Lebanon after looking at several other locations in the South and considering key factors that included, but were not limited to, general-population statistics, job-market potential, construction readiness, existing regional environmental commitments, and cost to build.
"You have a very strong labor market," Best said of Tennessee. "While we're bringing a number of jobs to the market, we know there's talent in the market to serve our members.
"Where it sits on the map ... we're growing east of the Mississippi. This will be our second distribution center east of the Mississippi. This will help with growing us that way. There's access to north/south highway and east/west highways."
The most recent distribution center to open was the Arizona facility in 2016.
"On behalf of Wilson County, I want to welcome REI Co-op to our community," Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said in a press release. "This decision was made possible because of the partnership formed with REI and members of our economic development team, especially those of the Wilson County Commission. We look forward to continuing our relationship and of being part of REI's newest technology-driven, omni-channel operation center. Their commitment to sustainability, to their people and the commitment to technology blends well with the goals and plans of our county. We look forward to further partnering with REI though their community outreach, events and stewardship programs."
REI — which is based in Seattle, Washington — was established in 1938 and has 174 stores across 41 states and the District of Columbia.
REI arrived in Tennessee when the Brentwood store opened in 1999, and it currently has more than 267,000 lifetime members in Tennessee. The other retail locations in-state include Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Pigeon Forge, with REI currently employing more than 300 individuals in Tennessee.
"REI is a respected brand that has been trusted by outdoor enthusiasts for over 80 years, and I'm proud the company has chosen Tennessee for its newest distribution center," Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in a press release. "Our state's central location and unmatched quality of life make it the ideal destination for a company so committed to outdoor recreation, and I thank REI for its commitment and job creation in Lebanon."
Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe added, "With more than 223,000 Tennesseans employed across nearly 14,000 distribution and logistics establishments, REI will be contributing to one of our state's most robust industries. We are proud to welcome REI to Tennessee and appreciate their team for creating nearly 300 new jobs in Wilson County."
Construction began on the facility in late December.
Al. Neyer, which is based in Nashville, is the architect and general contractor for the project.
According to Al. Neyer Vice President of Design-Build Justin Hartung, plans are to have enough of the construction completed in order to allow REI to install some equipment by October, though some things will still be under construction at that time.
The facility will be located at 1400 Murfreesboro Road, one mile from Interstate-40 and at the southwest intersection of Stumpy Lane and Murfreesboro Road. That is across from Southside Elementary School, which is located at the northwest intersection of Stumpy Lane and Murfreesboro Road.
"We were very attentive to any impact of traffic flow," Best said. "The city is attentive to that as well. There will be no truck traffic on Stumpy Lane. Truck access will only be off of Murfreesboro Road, farther down from the school. There will only be access for our employees.
"We'll have the opportunity to design shifts around school timing to help parents who have kids in schools, to be able to align with the communities."
Hartung added, "We wanted to stay clear as much as possible with interfering with any school traffic coming in. We'll coordinate and schedule around those times just to help to make sure we're not causing any interference there. We've set all our construction traffic to come in on the south side of Murfreesboro Road."
Best expects that the vast majority of the 280 hires to be in place when the center opens.
"We'll open closer to 280 than not," Best said. "Naturally, you're going to ramp up to that. We'll begin some of our early hiring as early as this year and then really start ramping that hiring in 2023.
"The folks we want to start bringing in are the folks who will help us lead this facility so that they will take ownership of the facility. We want them to be as proud of the product as we are to be in Lebanon."
State Rep. Clark Boyd added, "I am very excited to see a company like REI choosing to do business in Lebanon. We have worked hard to create a business-friendly environment in Wilson County and across Tennessee, and this announcement is yet another example of those successful efforts. I look forward to this new distribution center opening in Lebanon and want to thank all of those who helped make it possible."
Best's goal is for REI to serve as more than just a distribution center.
"We want to be a citizen and resident of the community, not a tenant," Best said. "We're going to make efforts to be involved in that way."