Hiring of 250 starts in city

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LEWISTON – Wal-Mart Distribution Center can add another sign to its nearly 1 million-square-foot plant: “We’re hiring.”

The food distribution hub for Wal-Mart stores throughout New England is getting ready to hire between 250 and 300 workers for its new perishables warehouse. The facility’s dry goods warehouse opened last year, hiring about 225 people to get it up and running.

“There aren’t too many parts of the country where you can boast about work ethic,” said Alan Hanley, general manager. “But here it’s wonderful, and people can pick things up very quickly.”

The new jobs are primarily material handlers, people who take the incoming shipments of food and route them throughout the warehouse where they’re stored, then fill orders for the outbound shipments. Once fully staffed, the center will be able to handle 300,000 cases of food a day.

Starting pay is $13.25, with 50-cent increases throughout the first 2 years, bringing the wage to $16 per hour. Most of the jobs are full time, with a handful of part-time positions. All carry benefits such as health insurance and vacations.

Hanley said he hopes to go full tilt with recruiting over the next two weeks. The center has its own employment kiosk on site, which is open around the clock. A room just off the main entrance holds 10 computers where prospective employees can fill out applications.

Hanley said he plans to add another five computers to the room, anticipating a strong response to the openings. When they hired for the dry goods section last year, the company received more than 3,000 applications.

“Basically we’re looking for folks with pleasant demeanors who are friendly,” Hanley said. “We have to be a cohesive unit and work as a team here.”

Once the right kind of people are on board, “We can teach them the X’s and O’s and how to run the equipment.”

Some of the positions will require three to six weeks of training. And some – such as those for the freezer portion of the warehouse, where temperatures run between 10 and 20 degrees below zero – will have pay differentials. Employees also receive pay incentives for safety records.

Hanley said the perishables warehouse should begin receiving shipments in July and sending shipments in August. The distribution center will serve about 100 Wal-Mart stores throughout New England and into New York. Between 130 and 150 trucks a day will be arriving and departing the Alfred E. Plourde Parkway plant.

There’s potential for more. Depending on how many new Wal-Mart superstores come on line, the $100 million distribution center could grow further, tapping into an unused third floor for additional warehouse space.

If so, the company would be hiring again.

“Two or three years from now we could have 700 people perhaps,” said Hanley.

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