HANOVER TWP. — When Chewy.com announced last year it was locating a new distribution warehouse in the Hanover Industrial Park, it also said it was planning to “eventually” hire about 1,000 people.
But that “eventually” came much more quickly than expected — those 1,000 jobs have already been filled.
Gregg Walsh, vice president of human resources operations for Chewy.com at its corporate headquarters in Dania Beach, Florida, said once the company decided that Northeastern Pennsylvania was the place to be, it moved into an 800,000 square-foot building — Chewy’s largest fulfillment center.
”First and foremost, when we were looking for a location for our fifth fulfillment center, we looked at where we can deliver the orders for our customers as quickly as possible,” Walsh said. “Because our customer base being so strong in the Northeast, we felt this would be the best location.”
The Chewy building is in an area of the Hanover Industrial Park that was previously coal-scarred. The land was purchased by a Kansas City-based real estate firm, called NorthPoint Development, last year. NorthPoint vice president Brent Miles told the Times Leader the several buildings at the site will total about 2 million square feet and will have the potential to create 1,500 to 2,000 jobs.
As Chewy nears its one-year anniversary in the Hanover Industrial Park, Walsh said its building employs 1,000 — almost all of them hired from the local market.
“We definitely recognized the strong, stable labor market in the area,” Walsh said. “We see the Wilkes-Barre area as a growing labor market that will continue to grow over the next several years.”
Business focus is speed
The online retailer of pet food and other pet-related products states on its website: “Chewy was founded by people with a serious passion for helping pets, offering some 30,000 items for dogs and cats.”
Walsh said Chewy is an ecommerce company that depends on being able to fill customers’ orders as quickly as possible.
“When a customer goes online to place an order, it gets fulfilled by one of our five fulfillment centers,” Walsh said. “We then pick, pack and ship those orders to be received within one to two days.”
Walsh said Chewy encourages employees to be involved with their communities. He said the company partners with several charities focused on pets.
“The company makes donations to local shelters,” Walsh said. “We are very focused on that. And if a customer orders something for their pet, but it’s not the right item for their pet, that items gets donated to a local shelter.”
According to the Chewy.com website, the starting hourly pay for forklift operator and fulfillment specialist positions at Wilkes-Barre FC are up to $12.75.The site also employs a purchasing specialist and a customer experience program manager.
When Chewy was about to open last year, Sam Guesto, Hanover Township manager, said the development was a major step in the right direction for the township.
“Especially for that tract of land,” Guesto said. “It had been vacant for a while and has been remediated.”
Guesto said the tract sits in a Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ), which exempts the owners from paying property and mercantile taxes for 10 years.
“But without those type of tools, we would never be able to attract anybody to those parcels,” Guesto said. “We looked at this from a couple of angles — we will receive realty transfer taxes and with the construction of three buildings, there will be a significant influx of building permit fees.”
Additionally, Guesto said the township will collect right-to-work taxes from all employees.
Guesto said the project could also lead to the additional development of support businesses to serve Chewy and other employees — such as gas stations, mini-markets, and restaurants.
It was recently revealed the other buildings next to Chewy will be home to athletic apparel maker Adidas and Patagonia Inc., an environmentally conscious firm that sells outdoor clothing.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle