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Why AutoZone chose Pasco for $50M warehouse

AutoZone Inc. is hiring workers for the Pasco distribution center. The $50 million project is nearing completion not far from the King City Truck Stop.
AutoZone Inc. is hiring workers for the Pasco distribution center. The $50 million project is nearing completion not far from the King City Truck Stop. Tri-City Herald

One of the Mid-Columbia’s biggest economic development stories in 2016 will soon become one its biggest jobs stories for 2017.

AutoZone Inc. is nearing completion of its ninth U.S. distribution center, a 443,819-square-foot behemoth near Pasco’s King City Truck Stop. The project represents an investment of more than $50 million for the Memphis, Tenn.-based Fortune 500 company.

It will employ about 200 when it is fully operational, with an annual payroll of about $10 million.

Rod Halsell, senior vice president for supply chain and customer satisfaction, updated local business leaders about the company at the annual gathering of the Tri-City Development Council this week at the Pasco Red Lion. TRIDEC played a key role in recruiting AutoZone to the community.

443,819 square feet

$50M project cost

235 stores it will serve

$3.4M Washington state incentives

200 employees

Halsell pledged AutoZone will be an attentive corporate citizen and employer that takes safety seriously and gives to the community by encouraging workers to volunteer and matching their charitable contributions.

AutoZone has a program to employ people with disabilities, which will be active in Pasco. The company refers to its workers as “AutoZoners.”

The identity of AutoZone as a prospective Pasco business was a closely guarded secret until early 2016, when news emerged that the company behind the effort — code-named Project Sunrise — had selected Pasco over Ellensburg, Yakima, Hermiston and Richland.

The company outed itself when it purchased property in Pasco under its own name.

A year later, Halsell provided insights into why AutoZone selected Pasco for its Northwest distribution center over the more centrally located Yakima.

It’s not all about money for AutoZone. We liked everything the Tri-Cities had to offer. The DNA seemed to match.

Rod Halsell, AutoZone

Yakima was the most logical spot since it’s at the center of the region’s AutoZone stores, but Halsell said the Tri-Cities proved a better fit.

“It’s not all about money for AutoZone,” he said. “We liked everything the Tri-Cities had to offer. The DNA seemed to match.”

The state of Washington is providing $200,000 in cash and up to $3.2 million in tax breaks to AutoZone for the warehouse.

The warehouse at 3733 Capital Ave. will support 235 stores in seven states.

Halsell described a wild ride that included secret visits and countless meetings with officials from Yakima to Pendleton eager to land the company and its jobs.

And the Tri-Cities can expect to see more of AutoZone.

The company is adding 150 stores annually in the U.S. and 40 to 50 a year in Mexico. Halsell predicts its Northwest presence will double to as many as 500 stores in coming years.

AutoZone is advertising a variety of jobs at the new center.

Pasco’s newest corporate citizen reported a net profit of about $1.2 billion on $10.6 billion in revenue in 2016. It trades under the symbol AZO on the New York Stock Exchange.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell

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