Pasco’s AutoZone distribution center to welcome first inbound truck

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Company bypasses 3 other cities to invest $50 million into new warehouse

AutoZone’s new Pasco distribution center will welcome its first inbound truck on April 15 and begin sending trucks out to customers and stores in late June.

The company invested $50 million into the new distribution center that will serve 235 stores in seven states, including four in the Tri-Cities. The company has 5,872 total stores.

“We’re very excited to be coming to Pasco and filling our customers’ needs,” said Rod Halsell, AutoZone senior vice president for supply chain and customer satisfaction. He was the keynote speaker at the March 15 Tri-City Development Council’s annual meeting in Pasco.

Halsell noted the company needs to “be close to our stores” and said the Pasco warehouse might eventually serve 400 to 500 stores as the Pacific Northwest population grows, which would mean “more jobs in the Pasco community.”

The company plans to employ 200 in Pasco, with a $10 million annual payroll. It has a total of 82,000 employees.

The Memphis, Tennessee-based company operates auto parts stores and supplies automotive replacement parts and accessories to commercial customers. The publicly-traded company boasts annual sales of $10.2 billion. Eighty percent of its customers are do-it-yourselfers and 20 percent are commercial, Halsell said.

Over the years, we’ve found things that work well and things that don’t work at all – and everything in between.

Reid Lunde, owner of KAIZENSPEED

The company built a 443,819-square-foot distribution center and truck maintenance yard at 3733 Capital Ave., near Pasco’s King City Truck Stop.

Big-D Construction, based in Salt Lake City, was the general contractor for the project.

It’ll be the company’s ninth distribution center. The tenth is being built in Florida.

AutoZone bypassed Richland, Hermiston and Yakima before choosing Pasco.

Halsell said AutoZone invests $50 million into a community before hiring even begins so making a good match in a community is critical, especially since “AutoZone is here for many decades.”

How did the company settle on Pasco?

Halsell said AutoZone officials met with community leaders, elected officials and other “retail leaders” to learn about the area, and quality and availability of the work force. “It’s very important information for us,” he said.

The debate about where to build “wasn’t an easy decision” and not everyone agreed. Ultimately Pasco was chosen because of the availability of employment and “we liked the growth in the area,” Halsell said. “We thought it would be a good home for AutoZone.”

Halsell said the company’s distribution centers maintain a union-free environment.

Halsell also talked about how AutoZone would be a good corporate citizen in the Tri-Cities with its nonprofit charitable giving programs and “People With Abilities” program that employs those with disabilities.

He encouraged those in the audience to buy AutoZone stock — it was about $700 a share the day of the meeting — as “it’s very profitable.” The business went public in 1991, trading on the New York Sock Exchange under AZO. Its first store opened in Forrest City, Arkansas in 1979.

The company changed its name from Auto Shack to AutoZone in 1987 after Radio Shack raised concerns, Halsell said.

Halsell said he’s thankful for the name change as the company’s advertising campaign, “Get in the zone,” wouldn’t have worked with “Get in the shack.” “It wouldn’t have the same ring,” he said with a smile.

AutoZone has been a Fortune 500 company since 1999.

 

AutoZone culture

AutoZone employees wearing red company polo shirts turned the TRIDEC event into a mini company meeting to give Tri-Citians a sense of the company’s culture. They did a group cheer with clapping and hand motions to spelling out the company’s name and recognized one of their Pasco workers.

“Who’s the best?” Haldsell and the others shouted.

“AutoZone,” they responded in unison.

“Who’s No. 1?”

“The customer,” came the response to the call.

The company’s pledge states AutoZoners know their parts and products, that their distribution centers look great and they deliver the right merchandise at the right time. They also emphasize a clean and safe work environment.

AutoZoners receive Extra Miler awards for going above and beyond their duties, and Pasco High alumni John Davis received the Pasco distribution center’s first one during the TRIDEC meeting. He’s the maintenance manager for the new Pasco center.

“(John’s) knowledge of the Tri-Cities has helped out tremendously,” said Bruce Lufkin, manager of the Pasco distribution center.

Kristina Lord

Kristina Lord

Kristina Lord has more than 21 years of journalism experience and has been editor of the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business and Senior Times since July 2016. She spent more than 17 years at the Tri-City Herald and also worked at weekly newspapers in Prosser, Grandview and Yelm. She’s a longtime member of the Society of Professional Journalists’ William O. Douglas chapter and a board member of Warrior Sisterhood, a Tri-Cities Cancer Center support group. She and her husband have two young daughters and they live in West Richland.

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