As AutoZone celebrated the grand opening of its new Pasco distribution center earlier this month, the company was offering $7,500 sign-on bonuses to entice qualified truck drivers to join the team.
The company’s $50 million distribution center and truck maintenance yard on 93.4 acres off Highway 395 employs 245 full-time workers, which help to make more than 270 deliveries weekly across seven states, said Bruce Loflin, the center’s manager.
Corporate executives and employees celebrated the center’s grand opening Nov. 4 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and family activities.
The new 444,000-square-foot warehouse, the company’s ninth distribution center, could one day make 300 to 400 deliveries weekly, Loflin said.
“We are constantly in the process of upgrading our supply chain capabilities,” said Bill Rhodes, chairman, president and CEO of AutoZone.
A leading retailer and distributor of automotive replacement parts and accessories in the United States for do-it-yourselfers and commercial retailers, the Memphis, Tennessee-based Fortune 500 company owns 5,872 stores — including four in the Tri-Cities — and employs more than 82,000 “AutoZoners.”
“We don’t have employees at AutoZone — anyone can have employees,” Rhodes said. “We have AutoZoners … AutoZone isn’t for everybody; AutoZoners have a passion and commitment to what they do.”
AutoZone brought 42 families to the new Pasco warehouse from five of its existing distribution centers to form a core group of experienced AutoZoners to guide new team members.
This core group comprises about 20 percent of the employees at the Pasco distribution center.
“Not just management, but drivers and hourly AutoZoners, too. It’s worked really well,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes said this strategic move has contributed to the overall success of the new distribution center, including its status as AutoZone’s safest distribution center to date.
“A lot of companies talk about culture,” he said. “We live culture.”
He called the workers in the AutoZone supply chain “the lifeblood of the company. They’re who ensure we get the right part in the right place at the right time.”
And that’s important to the company.
“Our management team is committed to the AutoZone culture,” said Rob Durkin, vice president of supply chain at AutoZone. “We treat every store like it’s the only store and aim to put a part in the customer’s hand every time.”
Pasco’s first in-bound trucks started arriving April 15, with the first out-bound trucks departing in June.
“It’s been exciting,” Loflin said.
Loflin reported that about 20 to 30 deliveries come and go each day, and the warehouse inventory totals around 70,000 items.
“Our day starts at 7 a.m. with a manager meeting, which is followed by our cheer and pledge every morning. Then we break into our different departments,” Loflin said.
He said the $7,500 hiring bonus currently offered to entice truck drivers is “starting to take hold.”
The need for qualified truck drivers isn’t unique to AutoZone.
“Trucking across the country is very tight,” Rhodes said. “Demand is up. The economy is doing well and more and more is coming in from overseas.”
AutoZone drivers work full time, get at least two consecutive days off, receive a full benefits package, paid time off and holidays, bonuses and earn on average 48 cents per mile.
Interested applicants must have at least one year experience with a Class A commercial driver’s license, or CDL, with a hazardous materials endorsement, or the capability of obtaining this endorsement.
Andy Harding, AutoZone’s regional manager for the area, said AutoZone not only provides customers high-quality services, but also strives to be highly involved in the local community.
“Numerous AutoZoners volunteered on four separate occasions at Second Harvest, packaging over 20,000 meals. AutoZone also sponsored 7,500 meals for area families and children in schools through Second Harvest’s Take a Bite Out of Hunger program,” Harding said.
“The Tri-Cities is a great place to live and a beautiful part of the country in the Northwest and will be a great place to work for many years to come,” Durkin said. “We look forward to a long, productive and successful relationship with our new AutoZoners here in Pasco.”
AutoZone passed over Richland, Hermiston and Yakima before settling on Pasco.
“Our entire community worked really hard to bring this project to Pasco and the Tri-Cities,” said Carl Adrian, president of the Tri-City Development Council. “AutoZone’s investment is important because it brings much needed jobs to this fast-growing region.”
Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins said the facility adds onto the “back-end of our community” with taxes, jobs, and industrial and commercial diversity.
“Property taxes that are sorely needed by our school district to mitigate the effects of growth, family-waged jobs by younger families that have chosen to make Pasco and the Tri-Cities their homes,” Watkins said.
And “capital investments and jobs are what economic development is all about,” Adrian said.
AutoZone’s decision to open the distribution center in the Tri-Cities helps position the area as a hub for similar businesses in the Northwest, putting “our community on the map,” Watkins said.
“We want to make it a winning location,” he said.
It’s looking like it’s a good fit so far.
“We found everything we were looking for right here in Pasco and (the) Tri-Cities,” Rhodes said. “There is a long prosperous road ahead of us.”
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