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U.S. Foods re-enters region with new Flowood facility

Source: The Clarion-Ledger

Rankin County's economic recovery from the April 2014 tornado took a big step Friday.

U.S. Foods "chopped" the ribbon on its 272,000 square-foot distribution center in Flowood, marking the company's return to Rankin County after an EF3 twister destroyed its old facility in Pearl.

The new facility, in operation for three weeks, is LEED-certified and features multiple temperature zones. It will serve U.S. Foods' Mississippi and Louisiana markets, which represents about 4,000 chefs, restaurant owners and foodservice operators. Sales in the two states total more than $1 billion annually. Employment will hover between 300 and 400, said Gil Smith, the company's division president.

Seventy-seven delivery trucks will circulate in and out of the center daily.

Ground broke on the new facility last August 27, almost four months to the day after the April 28 tornadoes that killed 10 people in Winston County and one in Tupelo. In Rankin County, a twister destroyed a handful of businesses and mangled several others.

With its Pearl location inoperable , other U.S. Foods distribution centers filled the gap, servicing customers and keeping the company viable in the Central Mississippi market while the new building was under construction.

"It wasn't easy, but they did a phenomenal job," Smith said. "It's been a very challenging 14 months."

The Flowood facility features a demonstration kitchen stocked with culinary tools, the latest A/V equipment and menu development software, designed for customer training and product testing, an amenity U.S. Foods has been installing in its new facilities. It also has a bigger selection of fresh produce, including two produce ripening rooms.

"This facility is a testament to the character and resilience of the people of Jackson," said Pietro Satriano, who was named U.S. Foods CEO earlier in July, at the chopping ceremony. "It also signals U.S. Foods' commitment to this market."

The Underwood Drive site is nestled in an industrial area that includes steel producer Nucor Corp., Puckett Machinery and United Rentals. It has quick access to interstates 55 and 20, rail and Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport. "They took a good site and made a great facility," said Rep. Tom Weathersby, R-Florence, whose district includes Flowood.

Contact Clay Chandler at (601) 961-7264 or Follow @claychand on Twitter.

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