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Groundbreaking: Distribution center planned for Marion, adding 40 jobs

May 17, 2017 - Marion, MS

By Whitney Downard wdownard@themeridianstar.com

Over the past 45 years a small farm and garden store in Texarkana, Texas has grown to 17 locations in nine states, stretching across the Southeast and Midwest.

Now, the second-generation company, BWI Companies, Inc., will open a new distribution facility in Marion, as announced at a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday morning at the Northeast Industrial Park in Marion.

The Lauderdale County Supervisors, Marion Mayor Elvis Hudson, the Mississippi Development Authority and the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation worked together to attract the company, competing against locations such as Montgomery, Ala.

"I can see apartments filling up, home building starting and a commercial impact," Hudson said. "It's going to be a huge thing."

As part of the appeal, the board of supervisors applied for a rail spur grant, which will help bring the seeds in bulk to the distribution facility and will also upgrade a private, soon-to-be public, road that BWI Companies, and surrounding companies, will use.

"The economic impact is very exiting," Marion Alderwoman Rita Rawson, said. "We look forward to growing even a little bit more."

Mickey Milligan, the director of existing industry and business at the Mississippi Development Authority, said that since the excitement of a proposed Raytheon deal that eventually was withdrawn, he has seen a difference in East Mississippi.

"I have worked in the state for 20 years... and I saw a new spirit in the Meridian and Lauderdale community that I had never seen before," Milligan said.

Bill Hannah, president and CEO of the EMBDC, agreed.

"I would attribute that to the crowd here. They're all business leaders making it happen and working together," Hannah said. "That's what's different."

Hannah said he believed this business could attract other businesses.

"The more of these that we get the more that we can get," Hannah said. "It's a momentum."

Robert Bunch, who serves as co-president and CEO of the company with his brother, Jim Bunch, credited Hannah for convincing BWI Companies to move from their current location, in Jackson, to build a new facility in Marion.

"Bill Hannah reached out to us and they were hungry. A lot of communities weren't like that. They weren't looking for new jobs and new business like (EMBDC)," Bunch said.

The company will hire 40 employees, mostly in the office or warehouse and truck drivers, for the Marion facility, moving an additional 20 employees to the area. According to its website, BWI Companies has more than 600 employees and more than 125 staff in field sales.

"There's a great business climate and opportunity in Marion," Bunch said. "(We came here) because of the pro-business climate that will help us fast-track this project and not tie us up with red tape."

Bunch said at the ceremony that the 80,000-square-foot distribution center should be finished by December.

The specific address has yet to be finalized and will be determined once Fairground Drive becomes public. The future facility will be located at the corner of Northeast Industrial Park and Fairground Drive.

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