by JENNIFER BIUNDO
Nearly two years after U.S. Foodservice announced plans to relocate its regional distribution center to Buda — with a citizen protest, referendum petition, and state Supreme Court lawsuit appeal in between — the company broke ground last week on their new $50 million facility.
“We’re proud that you stayed here,” said Hays County Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton told company officials at the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday morning. “That took real perseverance. That took real dedication to this site.”
On Sept. 2, the company closed on the $4 million purchase from Sunfield Municipal Utility District, said U.S Foodservice Austin Division President John Fowler. The 40-acre property sits inside the Sunfield development east of Buda, near the newly-built intersection of SH-45 and IH-35.
To access the construction site, city, county and state dignitaries attending the groundbreaking ceremony drove past former cow pastures down the unpaved County Road 118, its dirt surface riddled with puddles full of last week’s rain.
Hays County will upgrade the two roads adjoining the site, CR 118 and Turnersville Road, with a $750,000 Texas Capital Fund Grant and $2.7 million in county funds that may be recouped through U.S. Foodservice property tax over the next two decades.
“If ever there was a model of business and government joining together and creating infrastructure, this is it,” Fowler said.
While commercial development has been slow to sign on to the 2,800-acre mixed use Sunfield development, Buda Mayor Bobby Lane said the infrastructure could open up the area to new business development.
“This site can serve as a catalyst for projects yet to come,” Lane said.
The new facility, designed and constructed by ESI Design Services of Wisconsin, will qualify for Green Building Council LEED Certification, company officials said.
The 290,000 square foot office and warehouse facility is slated to be completed in October 2011, initially employing a staff of about 250. A possible future expansion could add between 100,000 – 200,000 additional square feet and 150 new employees.
Earlier this month, one of Buda’s largest industrial employers, Chatleff Controls, announced it would shutter its Buda manufacturing plant and outsource 120 jobs to Mexico.
“During our budget hearings, we heard folks coming forward talking about what tough economic times we’re in and the need for jobs,” Barton said. “One of the things we could look to them and say was, ‘They’re coming.’”
JENNIFER BIUNDO is a senior reporter at the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Mercury and the Free Press.
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