Yet another big retailer sees Kern County as the right place to build a regional distribution center.
Walmart announced Thursday it will soon break ground on a high-tech warehousing facility employing 300 full-time workers by the fall of 2020 at Shafter's Wonderful Industrial Park.
The retail leader said the 600,000-square-foot facility at 2701 S. Driver Road will distribute fresh and frozen food using technology designed to move 40 percent more product than a traditional distribution center.
"The high-tech DC (distribution center) in Shafter will allow us to move product to stores and clubs faster so that we can better serve customers," the company's senior vice president of supply chain, Tim Cooper, said in a company blog Thursday.
Walmart's announcement follows other major developments in Kern logistics and warehousing in recent months.
County officials confirmed in early September Amazon plans to build a roughly 2.6 million-square-foot distribution center employing at least 1,000 people near Meadows Field. Construction on the project has already begun, and the facility could open before the end of next year.
Additionally, L'Oreal USA said in August it plans to relocate its Valencia distribution center to the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center south of Bakersfield. And after the Amazon project was disclosed, Ross said it expects to lease a 1 million-square-foot warehouse near its existing, 1.7 million-square-foot center in Shafter.
Kern is considered a near-ideal location for distribution centers primarily because the county is well-situated to serve a large portion of California with tractor-trailer drives of no more than a few hours.
But people in the industry say there are other big advantages: While Los Angeles County's distribution hubs continue to fill up, Kern offers a wealth of undeveloped, relatively low-cost industrial real estate with convenient access to major transportation arteries.
The region's labor force is also seen as inviting, with a low cost of living and plenty of workers without college degrees but experience in farm work and other industries requiring skilled manual labor.
Walmart said the proposed distribution center's advanced technology helps workers put together dense, flexible pallets that lower shipping costs.
“Every product is measured and documented so that we know how to handle it,” project engineer Shayne Wahlmeier was quoted as saying in Walmart's blog Thursday.
“A computer algorithm shows all the cases ordered for a given store and determines how to palletize them to maximize the space on a pallet or trailer," he continued. "It also takes into account density — what’s crushable, what’s not.”