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Food distribution center to open in Kannapolis

By Susan Shinn

For the Salisbury Post

KANNAPOLIS — The country’s largest privately owned food service distributor is coming to Kannapolis.

Gordon Food Service announced Monday that it will open a $58 million, 300,000-square-foot distribution center in Afton Ridge Business Park. Headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich., the company expects to employ 275 people within its first five years of operations.

The normally ebullient Mayor Darrell Hinnant was even more so Monday in making the announcement at the beginning of the City Council meeting.

“This is a great, great, great day for Kannapolis,” Hinnant said. “It’s exciting to be here. We have a huge announcement today.”

Scott Nicholson, executive vice president for GFS, said the move represents a perfect location to service the Carolinas. The company is also building centers in Maryland, Pittsburgh and Atlanta, according to Margie Bukowski of the Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation.

Established in 1897, GFS is a food service supplier to restaurants, school, universities, hospitals and long-term care facilities, Nicholson said. “We’re a fourth-generation family business. We have a culture that focuses on employees and excellent customer service.”

Such exemplary customer service, he said, is what makes GFS stand out from its competition.

Three other GFS employees joined Nicholson at last night’s meeting: Don Cummings, tax director; and Bill Casey and Ryan Sytsma, real estate managers.

Hinnant said that GFS would break ground on its distribution center in the next few days. Construction is to be complete in January 2016, he said. He also called the company a good fit for Kannapolis.

“They have core values very much like our community,” he said. “They have progressed and continued to grow over the years.”

Bukowski said the company boasts an “incredible policy” of employee benefits. Along with health and dental insurance, GFS offers its employees educational assistance, adoption assistance, and care partners in times of crisis.

“This company goes above and beyond anything I’ve ever seen,” she said. “This is the kind of company that’s coming here.”

This is the second major announcement this year regarding the business park. In March, the city unveiled the construction by Childress Klein Properties of a $17 million spec building in the business park.

“We’re hoping this will help sell the spec building,” Mayor Pro Tem Roger Haas said.

Irene Sacks, the city’s director of business and community affairs, said that an incentive package for GFS totaled $3,819,300 over a 20-year period. The city is also waiving permitting fees valued at $5,530.

No one spoke at a public hearing to discuss the incentive package.

Haas said that the motto of cities today is “Be bold.”

He was the only council member who was serving when the Afton Ridge property became part of the City of Kannapolis. There was such uproar about the acquisition that a public hearing on the matter had to be moved to a high-school auditorium.

“We felt like one day, it’s gonna pay off,” Haas said. “Today’s the day. We chose to be bold back then and we are being bold now.”

“This says to the world that Kannapolis is open for business,” Councilman Ryan Dayvault added.

Hinnant asked for a show of hands — versus the normal verbal vote — for the critical vote to authorize the city attorney to prepare an agreement for the economic incentive package for GFS. All seven council members quickly responded affirmatively.

“You have unanimous support from this council,” Hinnant told Nicholson, who thanked council members.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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