The western Massachusetts-based grocery store chain Big Y Foods is building a massive new distribution center next to its corporate headquarters in Springfield.
At 425,000 square feet – with a footprint the size of ten football fields – the new building will be more than twice the size of Big Y’s current distribution center. The number of dock doors will increase from 19 to 53.
The new facility, with a price tag of $46 million, is expected to be finished in about a year. It is designed to support the retailer’s expansion plans for at least the next 20 years, according to Big Y President and CEO Charlies D’Amour.
"We think we can accomodate another 20-30 supermarkets," said D'Amour.
There will be state-of-the-art refrigeration systems in the new building to provide optimum temperatures for the short-term storage of various fresh foods from berries to leafy vegetables, seafood brought in from the Boston piers, and baked goods.
" This is not a warehouse," said D'Amour. " We don't try to warehouse product here. Product comes in and goes out. Handling it appropriately under the right kind of refrigeration is really the goal of this project."
In the summer months it is a struggle for workers in the current distribution center to efficiently handle all the produce that arrives daily from western Massachusetts farms, according to D’Amour.
"We had a consultant several years ago who said 'Gee when you get to 50 stores you are going to run out of space ( in the current distribution center)'," said D'Amour. 'We have 70 supermarkets today. It's a lot of juggling and a lot of hands and this ( new center) will make us more efficient."
Big Y looked at several locations as possible sites for the new distribution center before deciding to build next to its headquarters on Roosevelt Ave. on land it bought in the mid-1990s that was being used for employee parking.
"It's a great location and a great hub for us," said D'Amour, noting the close proximity to both I-90 and I-91.
In January, the Springfield City Council approved a property tax break for the Big Y project that will save the company about $4.6 million over a ten-year period. The deal calls for the company to create 32 full-time jobs.
Mayor Domenic Sarno praised the privately-owned grocery chain for the jobs it provides and its support for local cultural and educational organizations.
"This is just wonderful," said Sarno at a recent groundbreaking ceremony for the project.
Rick Sullivan, the CEO of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts, said because of its local management, local decision-making, and purchasing from local suppliers Big Y has a multiplier effect on the region’s economy.
" A dollar spent with Big Y goes three, four, ten-fold into our economy and that is just so important," said Sullivan.
The new distribution center will employ 124 people, according to Big Y. The company’s total employment, full- and part-time, is about 11,000.