GRANDVIEW - Like a Hollywood premiere, the stars of the Lower Valley were out Wednesday morning to celebrate the grand opening of Wal-Mart Distribution Center 7021. Grandview Mayor Mike Bren, Port of Grandview President Colleen Byam, Fourth District U.S. Congressman Doc Hastings and Yakima County Development Association President David McFadden were just a few of the local officials who took part in the glitzy grand opening ceremony.
Balloons lined the hallway, spotlights flooded the presentation stage and employees of the distribution center added to the energy that sparked through the standing room only crowd.
The ceremony held Wednesday morning served to commemorate the opening of the new Wal-Mart distribution center in Grandview. The grocery distribution center currently employs more than 400 people, and is designed to ship 200,000 cases on an average day. The building itself, which is large enough to house 20 football fields, is situated on 115 acres of property just off of Woodall Road.
Rick Gray, general coach of the new distribution center, helped welcome the crowd to the ceremony. He also took that time to explain one of the ideas behind Wal-Mart's inviting work environment. Gray told those in attendance that he likes to think of the distribution center as a big house and those who work in it as a large family.
"We're all part of it," he said, pointing to the multitude of Wal-Mart employees. "It's inclusion, it's diversity. It's what we're all about."
Gray noted that the employees of the distribution center are all excellent people. He explained that more than 6,000 applications were received for the more than 400 positions at the center.
"We were looking for those folks to come in with a good attitude," he said. "What we're looking for are good, quality people."
Grandview Mayor Mike Bren noted that the jobs the Wal-Mart distribution center has brought to the community are key, noting that with new jobs comes enthusiasm. He said if a person is happy and enthusiastic about their job that enthusiasm rubs off on the person's family, on their neighbors and eventually it affects the entire community.
"We're beginning to see that," Bren said. "We know we're going to see some pretty exciting things."
Bren said since Wal-Mart has made Grandview its newest home, he has had conversations with developers and business owners who are beginning to think of the community as a place to be.
"Grandview is getting to be known as what's happening now," he said.
Wendy Holden of the Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development said the distribution center is a good example of what economic development is all about, "a local community having a vision."
She said when Wal-Mart was first looking to site a new distribution center, it was the Lower Valley communities as a whole that worked together to make the vision a reality.
"The community made Wal-Mart feel this was a place they would be at home," Holden said.
Port of Grandview President Colleen Byam said the entire Valley was involved and worked together to bring the distribution center to Grandview.
"They say it takes a village to raise a child," Byam said. "Well, it also takes a village to site a Wal-Mart."
Larry Duff, division vice president of logistics for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said it was that cooperation among the cities of the Lower Valley that impressed the company.
"We had never encountered that before," he said.
Holden said even with the distribution center not yet running at full capacity, the surrounding area is already beginning to see the benefits. She noted that every month since January unemployment rates in the area have dropped by at least 1 percent.
Fourth District U.S. Congressman Doc Hastings said having the distribution center sited in the Lower Valley also brings with it another benefit. He said the area's economy is largely agriculture based, and for economic growth diversity is needed.
"This center gives us that diversity," Hastings said.
In conjunction with the grand opening ceremony, Wal-Mart also presented a number of grants to different community organizations, including the Grandview School District, the Grandview police and fire departments, and the Yakima Valley Fair and Rodeo.