Grocery giant Kroger is expected to announce Thursday that more than 400 jobs are coming to Forest Park for a Clayton County fulfillment center the company plans to open in 2021. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

Forest Park nabs more than 400 jobs with Kroger fulfillment center

Grocery giant Kroger is expected to announce on Thursday plans to build a $55 million fulfillment center in Forest Park that will bring more than 400 jobs to Clayton County.

The company, hoping to boost its home delivery business in metro Atlanta, will build the 375,000-square-foot at Forest Park’s Fort Gillem Logistics Center so it can get food to customers who shop online more quickly. Kroger will break ground on the Forest Park center later this year and begin operating in 2021.

“It’s really about doing things on the customer’s terms,” Robert Clark, Kroger’s senior vice president of supply chain, manufacturing and sourcing, said of the new fulfillment center. “It allows them to be able to shop online and pick up at stores or shop online and have it delivered to their home or some combination of all of the above.”

Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain, plans to open about 20 e-commerce fulfillment centers around the country as more and more Americans shop online for food in the same way that they purchase toys and electronics. Traditional grocers like Kroger have also stepped up their game as e-commerce behemoth Amazon has attempted to disrupt the way the supermarket industry operates through its ownership of Whole Foods.

The grocer will work with U.K.-based technology company Ocado Solutions, which will provide the robotics and digital systems for the new facility. Kroger will seek delivery drivers, food distribution workers and engineers as well as others at the facility. The company declined to discuss how much workers would be paid.

Kroger’s announcement comes as Clayton County has successfully cut its unemployment by more than half, though its rate is still the highest in metro Atlanta at 4.3 percent.

“That’s great for the Clayton County economy and definitely great for our employment rate,” Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner said. “I hope they will give preference to local people when it comes to hiring.”

Forest Park Mayor Angelyne Butler said Kroger’s investment demonstrated a belief that Clayton has what employer’s want.

“This is a net 400 jobs, with a capital NET,” she said. “It’s amazing. I’m absolutely thrilled they are entrusting us with their investment.”

A lot of the credit goes to the redevelopment of Fort Gillem into a logistics destination, said Jeremy Stratton, president of the Clayton Chamber of Commerce. Kroger already has a 1.3 million-square-foot distribution center there with more than 1,200 workers that serve the Cincinnati-based chain’s metro Atlanta stores. Others that have moved there include Cummins, with a 188,500-square-foot facility opened last year, and HD Supply, which opened a 1 million-square-foot facility earlier this year.

“What is making it attractive is you’ve got developers there who are putting up these million square foot speculative buildings and company’s are responding,” he said.

In a release, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said the state has emerged as a hub for technology and innovation, “and with access to our unrivaled logistics infrastructure and skilled workforce, I have no doubt that this new distribution center will allow Kroger to carry its operations to new heights.”

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