A food distribution company affiliated with the Lowes Foods grocery chain announced plans Thursday to add 200 jobs in Caldwell County – a rare bit of good jobs news in an area hit by layoffs.
Merchants Distributors Inc. will receive a grant worth as much as $2.82 million to create the jobs by 2014, state officials said. The company, based in Hickory, is a subsidiary of Alex Lee, which also owns the Lowes Foods grocery chain.
The positions will pay average annual wages of $51,123.
Founded in 1931, MDI supplies goods to more than 850 customers in 10 states. The expansion will begin next year and will enable the company to meet growing customer needs. The company is one of the county's largest employers.
“As our customer base continues to grow and diversify, we evaluated a number of options and locations to meet the growing demand,” MDI president Matt Saunders said. “In the end, we have determined that expanding here in North Carolina was absolutely the right move for us.”
Caldwell County's unemployment rate hit 8.3 percent in September, higher than the state and national rates. Its economy has traditionally relied on furniture and textiles.
To get the full value of the state incentive, Merchants, which already employs more than 1,500 in the Hickory area, must create all jobs promised and maintain them for 10 years.