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Wal-Mart Distribution Center

The Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Lewiston, Maine.

The Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Lewiston, Maine.

In January 2002, after months of working with a site locator and mysterious confidential client on one of the largest development projects in the community’s modern history, city and state officials announced that Wal-Mart would open a giant food distribution facility in Lewiston to service Wal-Mart Supercenters in the northeast.

In 2005, Wal-Mart celebrated the completion of the first phase of Wal-Mart’s Mechanized Food Distribution Warehouse on Alfred Plourde Parkway in Lewiston. The first phase included a 447,055-square-foot facility to stock dry goods for distribution to Wal-Mart Supercenters in northern New England.

Construction of the second phase of the project, a refrigerated warehouse, had already begun when the company cut the ribbon celebrating phase 1. The entire project now spans 892,706 square feet, and is Maine’s largest distribution center.

The distribution center employs hundreds, and is one of the 10 largest employers in Lewiston. In 2005, the Maine State Planning office estimated that the project’s secondary impacts, or the so-called “multiplier effect,” would result in the creation of an additional 475 jobs with a combined additional payroll of $11 million. According to the state, these additional jobs at the time were expected to generate an estimated $7.5 million in retail sales, $3.7 million in wholesale sales, and $16.5 million in service expenditures.

L-A faced stiff competition for the project from other communities in Maine and New England. The City of Lewiston worked in partnership with the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council and Maine and Company, a private non-profit organization charged with recruiting new businesses and facilities to the state, to land the deal.

During its due diligence, Wal-Mart officials reviewed local employment data several times, thinking Lewiston-Auburn’s exceptional statistics in terms of employee loyalty, low absentee rate, and efficiency were an anomaly. A number of people from the public and private sectors contributed time and energy to make the project work, fulfilling the most thorough due diligence process local development officials had ever seen. It was a community-wide effort, as Wal-Mart officials met with Department of Labor officials, local employers, and education, religious, and business leaders. Elected officials and city staff worked with property owners, local residents, and other parties of interest to make the project a success.