Moving dirt for Macy’s: Local leaders celebrate start of construction on retailer’s China Grove facility

Published 6:41 pm Thursday, April 28, 2022

CHINA GROVE — Standing under a large white tent with excavators and acres of red dirt behind him, North Carolina Sen. Carl Ford spoke about the change his family has experienced over the years in China Grove.

“I’ve lived here all my life,” Ford said. “Right here in the middle of the interstate is where my great grandfather lived. He was moved twice when they built 29 and then when they built 85.”

Ford was there to celebrate even more change coming to the town of several thousand in southern Rowan County. On Thursday afternoon, local and state leaders and representatives from Macy’s ceremoniously broke ground on the retailer’s 1.4 million-square-foot fulfillment center. The Silverman Group, a national real estate development firm, is a partner in the development.

The “state-of-the-art” facility is expected to eventually employ 2,800 full-time workers. Macy’s anticipates hiring even more part-time employees during peak holiday seasons.

“We appreciate you and the jobs you’re going to bring,” Ford said. “We’ll be glad to see the dust settle, literally and figuratively. It’s going to be great to have y’all here.”

Macy’s will invest $584 million in the fulfillment center, which will be located at the intersection of I-85 and U.S. 152 on Exit 68. Scott Shelton, vice president of the Rowan Economic Development Council, called those numbers “surreal.” When he joined the Rowan EDC in 2009, Shelton said the idea of a company like Macy’s choosing Rowan County was unthinkable.

“We knew that things would get better, but I don’t think any of us could have envisioned we’d be here today, years later, talking about an iconic company like Macy’s coming to Rowan County,” Shelton said.

While acknowledging China Grove’s proximity to Greensboro and Charlotte, Kenny Flowers with the North Carolina Department of Commerce claimed Macy’s arrival as a “victory for rural North Carolina” during the ceremony.

Macy’s projects the center to be operable by late 2024. Once constructed, the facility will be the “most-automated” building in the company’s network. Instead of employees walking back and forth across the facility floor to retrieve merchandise, the merchandise will be brought to them by mechanical or robotic means.

“In this goods to person solution, the picker stands at a workstation and the goods are presented to them from automation,” said Jodi Buhrman, vice president of supply chain for Macy’s.

That doesn’t mean the facility won’t need several thousand people.

“Because of the variety of products we have, there will still be some manual process,” Buhrman said. “But the majority of our processes are going to be automated.”

When the facility is fully operational, it will account for 30% of Macy’s total digital volume.

“This facility is big news for Macy’s,” said Dennis Mullahy, Macy’s chief supply chain officer. “We’re a large company but we’re growing tremendously, specifically in our omnichannel and digital business.”

Rowan County leaders went all in landing the retail giant. The county and the town of China Grove are providing Macy’s with about $50 million in tax incentives by returning 80% of new taxes paid by the company for 15 years. The county and town will retain $6.8 million and $5.6 million in tax revenue during the incentive period, respectively.

Ford said securing state-level incentives for the agreement was a challenging task.

“Rep. (Harry) Warren and myself and others, boy did we twist arms,” Ford said. “This is one of the hardest ones we’ve worked on to make sure it happened and have it on time and have it just right.”

State incentives for the project total just north of $11 million.

Ford doesn’t think Macy’s will be the last major company to break ground and bring change to the area.

“We’re going to get a lot more things in Rowan County,” Ford said.

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at ben.stansell@salisburypost.com.

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