Pasco is adding a Fortune 500 company to its list of corporate citizens.
AutoZone Inc. will build a 443,819-square-foot distribution center and truck maintenance yard at 3733 Capital Ave. near the King City Truck Stop. It will employ 200 people when fully operational.
The Tri-City Herald identified AutoZone, based in Memphis, Tenn., as the entity behind the top-secret economic development effort dubbed “Project Sunrise” after the company paid $3.6 million for the 93.4-acre site in its own name.
The Tri-City Development Council led the campaign to secure the center after the Washington Department of Commerce contacted it a year ago. Friday, TRIDEC officials continued to refer to their client by the code name, but other people familiar with the transaction confirmed that AutoZone is Project Sunrise.
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AutoZone’s public relations office could not be reached Friday afternoon to comment on the company’s plans for Pasco.
The distribution center will support AutoZone’s fast-growing store base. It operated 5,141 stores in 49 U.S. states at the end of 2015.
AutoZone (NYSE: AZO) reported almost $10.2 billion in net sales in 2015. It was No. 307 on Fortune magazine’s annual ranking of the largest 500 publicly traded companies.
In November, Chief Financial Officer William Giles outlined aggressive growth plans in a presentation at the 39th annual Automotive Aftermarket Symposium.
AutoZone is opening 150 stores annually and is developing an undisclosed number of “MegaHub” centers to increase the frequency of deliveries to its stores, Giles said. An imprecise graphic indicates plans to build a dozen such hubs. The map lacks definition, but it appears one such hub is planned in the Northwest. The presentation is available on the investors section of the company’s website.
Local trade groups say AutoZone could be good news for local contractors. The company is expected to officially solicit construction bids on Jan. 22.
“I hope it’s a union job. I’ve got a couple of contractors bidding it,” said Pete Marsh, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 112.
Greg Gales, business manager for Iron Workers 14 in Kennewick, learned the Project Sunrise owner is from Memphis when he called the phone number on a set of plans circulating in the construction industry, he said.
“Hopefully, one of our local contractors here will bid it and keep the money local,” he said.
The distribution center is a big win for the region, said Carl Adrian, president and chief executive officer for TRIDEC. Adrian declined to identify AutoZone as the company behind Project Sunrise, citing a nondisclosure agreement.
“Project Sunrise helps position us as a distribution location for work in the Pacific Northwest,” Adrian said. “It puts the community on the map.”
TRIDEC presented a choice of several local sites to a consultant, referred by the state, seeking a site for a significant distribution center. TRIDEC has worked with that consultant before, Adrian said.
In fact, TRIDEC officials never made direct contact with their prospective client.
“We only knew their first names,” he said.
The King City site prevailed over competitors in several states, including Oregon. The state will provide incentives through the Governor’s Reserve Fund to assist with development costs.
Adrian credited Pasco city officials with pulling out all the stops to make the winning case.
“Project Sunrise is a great win for our community,” he said. “Economic development is a team sport.”
Rick White, Pasco’s community and economic development director, also declined to publicly identify AutoZone as the company behind Project Sunrise.
Pasco worked to ensure that the right infrastructure and zoning are in place, White said. Officials answered the consultant’s questions, made utility improvements to help with truck traffic flow, and resolved some minor wastewater issues. The construction permit is waiting for the customer to pick up.
He described the company as a good corporate citizen — an important addition that expands Pasco’s industrial tax base and brings an array of jobs, from warehouse workers to upper management.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the project's code name.
Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell