CHIPPEWA FALLS — The new $69 million Mills Fleet Farm distribution center in Chippewa Falls should open on or about Dec. 26, with many of the employees already on payroll.
The employees work for DHL Supply Chain; they are not Mills Fleet Farm workers. The distribution center will eventually employ 325 people with wages averaging $15.60 an hour. DHL Supply Chain officials didn’t return calls for comment.
Construction of the 1.1 million-square-foot building got underway in March and is already nearing completion.
“They were pouring 50,000 square feet of concrete a day,” said Chippewa Falls Mayor Greg Hoffman. “That’s why it went up so quick.”
Hoffman said it has been a whirlwind year, as the City Council approved a developer’s agreement for the distribution center in March.
“By the time everything was approved, they were ready to hit the ground running,” Hoffman said. “The whole project has just gone extremely well; it’s just come together. What I hear is very positive.”
Hoffman said he drove by the building, located in the Lake Wissota Business Park in the northeast corner of the city, on Friday and was pleased to see the gates open and cars in the parking lot, as some of the employees are already working.
“They’ve been hiring supervisors,” Hoffman said.
Charlie Walker, Chippewa County Economic Development Corp. director, praised DHL Supply Chain for getting the employees lined up so they can get rolling immediately once they open for business Dec. 26.
“DHL is a global company. Their expertise in management and logistics is awesome,” Walker said. “I hear they are happy with the pool of quality employees. They are in phase one of hiring. I would expect a second wave of hiring after the beginning of the year. I know there are people from out of the state that were offered jobs, and they are moving to Chippewa Falls, so that’s good.”
Walker said it is stunning to think the massive building was erected in only about nine months.
“It’s an amazing feat,” Walker said. “It shows we can get stuff done. It shows you can get it built in time and under budget.”
Walker believes the distribution center will spur even more growth for the city.
“We’re proud to be the centerpiece of Mills Fleet Farm’s expansion for the next 10 years,” Walker said. “It’s awesome for the economic development of Chippewa.”
Chippewa County Administrator Frank Pascarella said he’s pleased Mills Fleet Farm chose the area for its new facility.
“I think it will be a value for the area for years to come,” Pascarella said. “I think it will be a regional spark plug.”
The industrial park was “shovel ready,” meaning it already had utilities in place and undergone environmental impact studies. Pascarella said the fact it was ready for immediate development was one reason Mills Fleet Farm chose the location.
“That was a motivating factor for them,” Pascarella said. “A lot of questions are answered up front. They can come in and be ready to negotiate with us.”
The distribution center is on a 70-acre parcel.
The five-party developer’s agreement involved the city, county, Mills Fleet Farm Group, Ryan Cos. US and DHL Supply Chain. Ryan Cos. constructed and owns the building, and DHL Supply Chain will manage the employees.
According to the developer’s agreement, Chippewa County — which owns the Lake Wissota Business Park — sold the property to Ryan Cos. for $1. Chippewa Falls, through tax increment financing, in turn paid the county $1.29 million, which is $18,000 per acre for the 70 acres.
The developer’s agreement says the building is a capital investment of $64.8 million, but county officials are estimating it will be closer to $69 million when complete.
Chippewa Falls contributed $10 million through its TIF, which included $7.3 million in a grant, $1.29 million for the land purchase and the remainder covering sewer, water and storm water extensions to the area. Last year, the city modified its TIF to cover the entire business park.
The contract spells out that DHL Supply Chain will have at least 239 full-time employees by Sept. 1. By the end of five years, they must have a minimum of 325 full-time workers.
Mills Fleet Farm started as Fleet Wholesale Supply in 1955, based in Brainerd, Minn. There are 36 Mills Fleet Farm stores across Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota, including in Menomonie and Hudson.
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