Walmart will double its distribution center space in Bethlehem.

October 17, 2014 |

Walmart will double its distribution center space in Bethlehem.

State officials announced Wednesday that Majestic Realty Co. will build the Arkansas-based global retailer a 1.2-million-square-foot distribution center that will employ 300 workers to fill online orders at the Majestic Bethlehem Center on the city’s South Side.

A year ago, the company announced it would open a 1-million-square-foot distribution center at Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII, also in south Bethlehem.

Together, the two projects comprise $96 million in investment and 650 jobs. Both are expected to open next year.

Walmart’s fulfillment center is the latest in a series of distribution facilities opening in the Lehigh Valley, taking advantage of the region’s proximity to major highways such as Interstate 78 and Route 22 and population centers such as New York and Philadelphia.

Last month, online retailer Zulily announced it would create 1,200 jobs at a new 800,000-square-foot distribution center in Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII.

“Considering the city of Bethlehem’s location and commitment to enhancing our transportation infrastructure, Majestic’s investment in this project will prove beneficial to both the tenant and the community in a variety of ways,” Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez said in a statement. “Job creation, growth in our tax base and greater consumer flexibility through e-commerce opportunities is a win-win for all of us.”

The new Majestic warehouse will be in a Keystone Special Development Zone, qualifying Walmart for tax credits of $2,100 per job for up to 10 years. That works out to $6.3 million if the distribution center employs 300 full-time workers for the life of the incentive.

The zone, one of two in the state, is designed to promote redevelopment of dormant industrial properties.

Walmart’s first Bethlehem distribution center at Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII qualifies for a 50 percent break on county, school district and city property taxes.

Walmart, which for years has ruled brick-and-mortar retail, is beefing up its online presence and distribution center infrastructure to compete with Internet retailers such as, which also has a Lehigh Valley distribution center.

“We continue to expand our next-generation fulfillment network with state of the art e-commerce facilities, like the one in Bethlehem in order to support the rapid growth of our e-commerce business,” said Brent Beabout, senior vice president of supply chain and logistics for Walmart Global eCommerce in a statement. “By combining large-scale online fulfillment centers with Walmart’s world-class supply chain and 4,300 U.S. stores, we can serve more customers faster and at a lower cost.”

The Bethlehem location will be part of a “next generation fulfillment network that includes dedicated online fulfillment centers, shared distribution centers, and ship-from-store locations that are all tied together by one of the biggest and most efficient transportation networks in the country,” the company said.

Walmart also will add new fulfillment centers in Atlanta, Ga., Brazil and China as part of a plan to spend $1 billion on digital initiatives this year, and $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion next year.

Workers at the new Walmart facility are expected to earn $14.75 an hour with benefits and “progressive” pay increases, said Nancy Dischinat, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board.

In October 2013, the company said it would supplement its year-round workforce at the first warehouse with temporary workers during the holidays, but hadn’t decided whether to hire directly for those jobs or use a staffing agency.

The Workforce Investment Board already has helped Walmart recruit 125 management and maintenance positions and is working on finding 200 more employees.

Many of the first group of workers came from the Walgreens distribution center in Hanover Township, Northampton County, which closed its doors in March, resulting in the loss of 400 jobs.

“When you look at the progressive wage scales, they might be back to their regular wages,” said Dischinat, referring to the former Walgreens workers. “Here is Walgreens, with dislocated workers, and we have a company that is looking for the same kind of skill sets. We have a workforce that has those skill sets.”

Gov. Tom Corbett attributed Walmart’s decision to locate in Pennsylvania to pro-growth state policies. And he said it positions Pennsylvania manufacturers to take advantage of the company’s pledge to up its purchase of Made in America products by $250 billion over the next decade.

“By creating policies that encourage economic growth, companies like Walmart are choosing Pennsylvania as the best place to grow their businesses,” Corbett said.

Link to Original Article: