Pet retailer set to become one of Dayton’s largest private employers

Pet retailer Chewy might hire twice as many workers at its new fulfillment center as initially projected, which would place it among the larger private employers in the city.

The e-commerce pet supplies company committed to employing about 600 workers within a few years of moving into a new facility on Lightner Road at the Dayton International Airport.

But Pete Krillies, Chewy’s vice president of real estate and facilities, told the Dayton Daily News its actual payroll could top more than 1,000 in that time.

MORE: Dayton might give pet retailer $450k for to lure 600 new jobs

“With the ramp up we’re going to have with this building, that number could double in the first three years,” he said.

The airport has turned into a regional job engine, and conservative estimates indicate that the first five new facilities at the airport could employ about 2,200 workers.

Chewy, an online retailer based in Dania Beach, Fla., is going to occupy a 690,500-square-foot building at the airport that is under construction. Chewy expects to move in by the end of June.

Late last year, Chewy officials said the new fulfillment center would bring about 600 jobs to the area.

But this week, Krillies said the actual number of new workers could be double that estimate.

The new facility has the capacity for around 1,500 workers. Krillies said his company should know more about the employment plans within the first year of the facility’s operation.

New jobs will include everything from material handling to office administration to forklift operators and skilled positions, Krillies said.

MORE: Report: Pet supplies company signs lease on huge facility near Dayton airport

The new facility will be Chewy’s Midwest hub, which will help the company achieve its goal of getting packages to customers within 48 hours of orders being placed, Krillies said.

The company, which was purchased by PetSmart in 2017, stands out from the competition because of its culture and major focus on customer service, Krillies said.

The 7-year-old company has been growing quickly and by far holds the largest segment of the online pet food and supplies market.

Dayton’s facility will be its eighth U.S. fulfillment center, which may follow the lead of some of Chewy’s other fulfillment centers that far exceeded the original job projections.

Chewy's fulfillment center in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., originally was expected to employ about 600 workers, according to reports at the time.

Later, the company said the center "eventually" was supposed to grow to 1,000 employees, according to the Times Leader.

Eventually came quickly: The payroll grew to 1,000 in less than one year.

Late last year, the center had hired about 1,400 workers and were looking for 200 more, according to the Citizens' Voice.

MORE: Ohio OKs credits to bring 600 Chewy.com jobs to Dayton, 1,400 jobs to region

Dayton’s fulfillment center may get a lot more than 600 jobs if Chewy adds shifts as it ramps up, said Terry Slaybaugh, Dayton’s director of aviation.

Spectrum Brands, which moved into a large facility at the Dayton airport, expected to employ about 345 people at the property. But Slaybaugh said it flexes up to more than 500 workers during busy times.

Dayton was one of four “finalist” locations Chewy was considering, and location was the most important consideration, Krillies said.

But Dayton’s culture, labor force and strong partnerships between economic agencies and organizations made it rise above the rest, he said.

Chewy, which has agreed to lease the building for 10 years, chose Dayton in large part because of its proximity to the company’s customers and the available workforce, said Erik Collins, Montgomery County’s director of community and economic development.

The city of Dayton agreed to provide Chewy with up to $450,000 through an annual performance grant.

The city will make five payments to Chewy over five years. The payments will be equal to a quarter of Chewy’s prior year payroll income tax withholdings.

“We are tying this grant to jobs that will be created and income tax revenue that we will have received in hand,” said Ford Weber, Dayton’s economic development director.

This was a very competitive project that will result in $45 million of capital investment in the site, Weber said.

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