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United Natural Foods has yet to announce how many people it will employ at the grocery distribution center in Centralia, but developer Tom O’Keefe said he believes it will be more than 350. Right now, however, there may not be enough local housing for these employees.

“There is a ripple effect to people living here,” said Centralia City councilor Peter Abbarno. “When you merely work here, you may not utilize the services that you would if you live here. So we want to create a vibrant community and — if we are going to do that — we need to encourage smart residential and commercial growth.”

UNFI is set to move into the $100 million, 1.2 million square foot grocery distribution center this summer, and the company expects the facility to be fully operational in the second half of 2019. With this major grocery wholesaler coming to Centralia, is a major workforce. 

O’Keefe, chief executive officer of O’Keefe Development and the developer behind this distribution center, held a private reception to reveal the tenant Wednesday, Feb. 6. While the company’s official number is 350 employees, O’Keefe said he believes the number will be “significantly higher.”

“Officially, right now, they are still pegging the number at 350 people, but they think it will be more,” said O’Keefe at the time. 

“There are a number of things our community can do to encourage well planned commercial and residential development; including modifying design guidelines, improving roads and infrastructure; maintaining an efficient permitting processes, and looking at annexation to encourage smart growth.”Abbarno said for the city to “encourage smart residential and commercial growth,” it needs an efficient permitting process. Read more in the Chronicle.

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