MDI starts $20 million expansion

Caldwell County's largest employer gets larger
Jun. 13, 2014 @ 08:28 AM

Merchants Distributers Inc., Caldwell County’s largest private employer, recently began a $20 million phase of expansion at its distribution center in southern Caldwell County.

The project will add more than 116,000 square feet to the distribution center's freezer facility, corporate secretary John Orgain said. MDI is a wholesale grocery distributor based in Hickory that serves about 600 stores, primarily in the Southeast.

This expansion is a phase of the $50.5 million expansion that the company announced in late 2008, but it was delayed by the recession, and changes in the business have led to a change in the configuration of the planned freezer facility, Orgain said.

No specific number of new jobs is tied to this phase of the expansion, but new hiring is expected "contingent on volume" of the work the distribution center is doing, he said.

Deborah Murray, executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, said the expansion is welcome news.

“We’re excited for them,” she said. “This is a sign of strength in this community and also of the national economy coming back.”

MDI currently has more than 1,700 employees, according to the company’s website, and the distribution center has more than 1 million square feet of space. The distribution center, which is off U.S. 321 south of the Walmart in Granite Falls, originally was built in 1996.

In late 2008, when the company announced its $50.5 million expansion, Caldwell County offered MDI a grant to repay the company 75 percent of the property taxes assessed on the new property value created by the investment.

That grant would include this phase of the expansion if it is completed this year. Orgain said company officials expect the work to be completed in time to qualify without seeking an extension of the tax grant.