JANESVILLE — There’s excitement in the voices of Janesville officials when they talk about the development of the new Dollar General Distribution Center.
“I think it will be huge for the economy for the entire region, not just Janesville,” said Sam Liebert, Janesville City Council president.
The $75 million project will encompass nearly one million square feet and includes a warehouse and office space, a truck maintenance facility and two guardhouses. Nearing the end of completion, it is situated at the intersection of State Highway 11 and County Highway G.
A major reason for the excitement is job creation.
“They say they want 550 people when it’s fully operational. It’s good to see that jobs are coming to the area,” Liebert said. “These are living wage jobs with an average wage of $13 to $16 per hour and more for forklift operators.”
Council Vice President Jens Jorgensen said it will open up doors for people in the area.
“I think it will give folks not on the college path a chance for a job and a chance to stay here and raise a family,” he said. “I’ve always been a supporter of bringing good-paying jobs here.”
“It will help diversify the local economy and strengthen our workforce,” Liebert added.
The center is scheduled to open in 2017, but hiring will begin this fall.
“At this time, the distribution center is scheduled to be fully operational by the early part of 2017, although the building will most likely be completed by late fall,” said Crystal Ghassemi, corporate spokesperson for Dollar General.
However, “We most likely will not celebrate the official grand opening until the spring after the weather warms up a bit.”
As for hiring, Ghassemi said the company is in the beginning phases.
“At full capacity, we anticipate employing more than 550 people,” she said.
When asked why Dollar General chose to locate the distribution center in Janesville, Ghassemi said, “Janesville provides a great location, a strong business environment and a great workforce to draw from to fill the 550 jobs that are anticipated to be created by this new distribution center.”
Another major reason people are excited about the new site is what it can do potentially for the city’s tax base.
“It’s a guaranteed added value of $40 million,” Liebert said.
The City of Janesville also had to spend money to attract the development. Previously, it bought and annexed the farmland and created a TIF District where the center has been built.
The incentive package offered Dollar General comes to about $11.4 million and included selling the land for $1, only, to Dollar General, Liebert said. In a perfect world, incentives wouldn’t be needed, but they are a tool that’s employed when communities are vying for jobs, he said.
Janesville City Council member Kay Deupree is a supporter of farmland preservation, but also sees the merits of the new development.
“I believe in farmland preservation so I am always sad when farmers decide to sell their land. But it is a done deal, though, the city bought the land,” she said.
“I think the number of living wage jobs is wonderful,” Deupree added.
She also said the distribution center would help give some people who have been left out of the employment ranks a chance for employment.
“I’m glad the company recognized a quality workforce,” Deupree said.
Of the incentive package offered Dollar General, Deupree said, “The package brought forward felt like the Economic Development Department did a good job in protecting the city. I appreciate that.”
Deupree also noted the location of the center could help spur more development on that side of Janesville.
“Because it is located on the south side of Janesville it could potentially draw some retail interest on the south side. It could be a bonus for people living on that side of the city,” she said.
Construction began on the approximately one-million-square-foot facility in November 2015 and is expected to serve approximately 1,000 stores in the upper Midwest. Dollar General’s 13 other distribution centers are located in Alabama, California, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. The company is currently constructing its 15th distribution center in Jackson, Georgia.