AutoZone has selected Chowchilla to build its first Northern California distribution center. Screengrab via an AutoZone distribution center video

published on December 16, 2021 - 2:46 PM
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Car parts retailer AutoZone is the latest company to secure a distribution home in the Central Valley.

The Tennessee-based company with more than 6,000 stores in the U.S. — 640 in California — announced Thursday afternoon its plans to build a $150 million distribution center in the Madera County town of Chowchilla. Construction would begin this coming summer with a targeted opening in 2024.

The distribution center would create at least 280 news jobs, according to an Auto Zone news release. It would occupy in phases 750,000 square feet of warehouse space in the Chowchilla Industrial Park with close access to Highway 99.

Referred to as “Project Sunset” by city planners, the distribution center has been about a year and a half in the making, said Bobby Kahn, executive director of the Madera County Economic Development Commission.

The Auto Zone announcement was actually first made at the State of the County Luncheon in Madera hosted by the EDC Thursday afternoon.

“There’s no better way to close an economic development event than with a major project announcement,” Kahn said. “The timing was remarkable.”

Kahn said the lead for the distribution center came via the California Central Valley Economic Development Corp., a consortium that includes Kern, Kings, Tulare, Fresno, Madera, Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. To his knowledge, Auto Zone started with about a dozen potential sites.

This would be AutoZone’s first Northern California warehouse. AutoZone currently has one distribution center in California in Ontario near Los Angeles. It also has warehouses in Washington, Texas, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia, Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Illinois, according to an August 2020 press release announcing the retailer’s plans to hire more than 20,000 new employees nationwide.

“We are thankful and applaud AutoZone for recognizing Chowchilla’s potential with a large development such as this one; it is a welcomed addition to our community. The City of Chowchilla would like to extend gratitude for the introduction of the project with both the Central California and Madera County Economic Development Commission,” said Rod Pruett, city administrator.

At a time when shovel-ready land for industrial development is in short supply along the Highway 99 corridor, Chowchilla has about 2,800 acres of land zoned and ready for building or occupancy, according to a city news release. 

It also has a suite of incentives for industrial developers that include impact fee deferrals, a $3,500 impact fee reduction for every permanent local job created meeting certain criteria and arrangements for the city to finance development impact fees through property tax increment or sales tax collection.

“We are very excited for this new development and what it means for the City of Chowchilla and the people who live here. We needed a way to create new jobs for the community, so they do not have to commute outside our city for work, and they can spend more time with their families,” said Mayor John Chavez.

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