Rock County riding warehousing and distribution wave
Excerpted from Janesville Gazette
By Neil Johnson
The 1 million-square-foot Dollar General distribution center rising on Janesville’s south end is still months from opening its doors.
The warehouse will be the biggest ever built in Rock County and employ more than 550 workers.
On just one side, the Dollar General warehouse will have some 75 truck bays to load dozens of semitrailer trucks a day and send them outbound to Interstate 90/39—the big, concrete-paved artery the retailer will use to transport items from Janesville to 1,000 retail stores in its Midwest network.
The $75 million Dollar General warehouse might be so large that it tricks the eye, but it’s no illusion. Rather, it’s an embodiment of the growth of warehousing and distribution, an industrial sector in Rock County that’s creating a promise of new jobs at a pace that few other job sectors here can match.
At least seven new companies that rely on distribution and warehousing as a significant portion of their operations have opened in Rock County since 2011, mainly in Janesville and Beloit, bringing in 350 new jobs, according to records obtained through the county office of economic development.
In Janesville alone, new warehousing and distribution operations are on pace to create at least 700 new jobs over the next two years.
That would account for as much as 10 percent of the new growth in jobs that economic development analysts have reported and forecast in Rock County’s half-decade climb out of recession.
And some of those new jobs come with starting pay of $16 or $17 an hour. That’s applying upward pressure on average blue-collar wages, which in Rock County have seen sluggish growth even as the local economy has recovered from the Great Recession and the shutdown of the General Motors assembly plant.
Forward Janesville President John Beckord has favored distribution and warehouse developments for years.
Beckord calls warehousing and distribution a “smart niche” for Janesville to develop a stable and diverse job market. It’s something private developers and economic development officials have worked to do for nearly a decade in the wake of Janesville’s loss of GM as a major employer for blue-collar workers.