Tuesday, July 12, 2022 - 00:00

Governor Cooper Announces 125 Jobs in Hickory as Merchants Distributors Begins New Expansion

Contact: Governor's Press Office

Raleigh, N.C.
Jul 12, 2022

Merchants Distributors, LLC (MDI), a wholesale grocery distributor founded in Hickory in 1931 will invest $35 million in a new expansion of its services and operations, creating 125 jobs, Governor Roy Cooper announced today. The company anticipates adding approximately 250,000 square feet to its perishable capacity at its Caldwell County facilities.

"Businesses that call North Carolina home continue to thrive here,” said Governor Cooper. “MDI knows firsthand the workforce, business and quality of life advantages North Carolina offers and it is great to see them grow once again in our state.”

MDI and its parent company Alex Lee, Inc. were founded in Hickory and maintain headquarters there, distributing both food and non-food grocery items to more than 600 retail stores across the United States and other locations. The company also provides additional retail support to its customers, including marketing and other services. The company’s new project in Caldwell County will add perishable capacity to the company’s existing facility in Hickory, with the conversion of ambient space into space that can be chilled and maintained at a temperature of 34 degrees.

“Hickory, North Carolina has been our home for over ninety years, and we are excited to support our continued growth with another expansion at our Caldwell County facilities in the city of Hickory,” said Brian George, Chairman and CEO of Merchants Distributors. “As our business continues to grow, demand for perishable products has increased the need for chilled warehouse space to service our customers and communities. North Carolina continues to support business growth and invest in workforce development which makes expanding at this location possible.”

Although wages for the new jobs will vary depending on position, the average salary will be $59,092, above the current average wage in Caldwell County of $43,905. The state and local area will see an additional impact of more than $7 million each year from the new payroll.

"It’s exciting to see a home-grown company continue to do so well in our state,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “As our First in Talent strategic plan makes clear, North Carolina will continue to invest in our people and their training so we can maintain our best-in-class workforce that meets the needs of growing companies like MDI.”

MDI’s project in North Carolina will be facilitated, in part, by a Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) approved by the state’s Economic Investment Committee earlier today. Over the course of 12 years, the project is estimated to grow the state’s economy by $323.4 million. Using a formula that takes into account the new tax revenues generated by the new jobs, the agreement authorizes the potential reimbursement to the company of up to $1,079,000, spread over 12 years. Payments for all JDIGs only occur following performance verification by the departments of Commerce and Revenue that the company has met its incremental job creation and investment targets. JDIG projects result in positive net tax revenue to the state treasury, even after taking into consideration the grant’s reimbursement payments to a given company.

“This is a great day for Caldwell County and the City of Hickory,” said N.C. Senator Warren Daniel. “It’s great to see a local company like MDI take advantage of North Carolina’s strong business climate to grow its operations, and I applaud the company’s leaders and employees for spearheading this expansion.”

“I’m proud of the collaboration that made this project possible,” said N.C. Representative Destin Hall. “We are excited for the new jobs and investment that MDI will bring to Caldwell County.”

In addition to the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of N.C., other key partners on this project were the North Carolina General Assembly, the North Carolina Community College System, Caldwell County, the City of Hickory and the Caldwell County EDC.

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