Raleigh, N.C.

Merchants Distributors, LLC, a wholesale grocery distributor founded in Hickory in 1931, will invest $120 million to expand its services and operations, creating 111 jobs, Governor Roy Cooper announced today. The company anticipates adding approximately 200,000 square feet to its Caldwell County facilities.

"Companies with roots in our state like Merchants Distributors understand North Carolina’s advantages for their business,” said Governor Cooper. “It’s great to see a home-grown company, which could expand anywhere, once again choose our state and our workers to expand.”

Merchants Distributors (MDI) and its parent company Alex Lee, Inc. were founded in Hickory and maintain headquarters there, distributing both food and non-food grocery items to more than 600 retail stores across the United States and other locations. The company also provides additional retail support to its customers, including retail automation services, advertising and placement, and retail price hosting, among other services. The company’s new project in Caldwell County will renovate and expand the company’s existing facility in Hickory, including the installation of sophisticated logistics technology and automation to support rapid growth of the business.

“We are excited to continue to grow in Hickory where we were founded nearly 90 years ago,” said Brian George, Chairman and CEO of Merchants Distributors. “The quality of life and the business support from North Carolina and our local community makes Hickory an ideal location to continue to grow our business."

"Nearly 90 years ago, Moses George – a Lebanese immigrant – and his two sons started this company with two trucks and 12 employees,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland. “Through hard work and vision, and a supportive environment for their business, this family built a company that now employs more than seventeen hundred people in North Carolina. It’s an inspiring, North Carolina story.”

Although wages for the new jobs will vary depending on position, the average salary will be $51,634, above the current average wage in Caldwell County of $40,124. The state and local area will see an additional impact of more than $5.7 million each year from the new payroll.

Merchants Distributors’ project in North Carolina will be facilitated, in part, by a Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) approved by the state’s Economic Investment Committee earlier today. Over the course of 12 years, the project is estimated to grow the state’s economy by $305.5 million. Using a formula that takes into account the new tax revenues generated by the new jobs, the agreement authorizes the potential reimbursement to the company of up to $1,344,000, spread over 12 years. Payments for all JDIGs only occur following performance verification by the departments of Commerce and Revenue that the company has met its incremental job creation and investment targets. JDIG projects result in positive net tax revenue to the state treasury, even after taking into consideration the grant’s reimbursement payments to a given company.

In addition to the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of N.C., other key partners on this project were the North Carolina General Assembly, the North Carolina Community College System, Caldwell County, the City of Hickory, and the Caldwell County EDC.

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