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WALLKILL, NY-Beginning next summer, Wal-Mart plans to turn dirt on a 1.2 million-sf distribution center here. The project, estimated to cost $48.5 million to develop, was announced by Governor George Pataki and other local officials at a press conference on Wednesday.

The project is to be built on the McKee property on Route 17K adjacent to Exit 116 off Route 17 near the Orange/Sullivan County border. The site totals approximately 350 acres and at one time was home to a gravel pit operation, according to Orange County Partnership President David E. Dirks.

Wal-Mart will begin construction in the summer of 2003 and expects to open the facility in the fall of 2004. State officials say that Wal-Mart will invest more than $25 million in real estate and construction, $20 million in machinery and equipment, and $3.5 million in infrastructure and training.

The project is expected to create 600 construction jobs during development and 700 jobs when the facility opens its doors. In three years, the center is expected to employ 1,000 workers.

“Wal-Mart’s decision to launch this major new investment is great news for the Orange County economy,” Governor Pataki says. “This state-of-the-art distribution center will provide 1,000 new jobs for local residents and gives another clear indication that New York State has created an outstanding environment for new private sector investment, job creation and economic growth.”

Rollin Ford, senior vice president of Logistics for Wal-Mart, says, “The Wallkill regional distribution center will provide Wal-Mart the opportunity to better serve the growing number of Wal- Mart customers who shop at our stores in the Northeast region. It is a significant project that represents our continued commitment to New York as a partner in both economic development and community.”

According to Dirks of the Orange County Partnership, the sale of the project site has not closed as yet. He says the deal is expected to be finalized by year’s end. At one time, the retailer had studied sites in Connecticut, Massachusetts and several other New England States. Locally, the firm had also considered properties in Sullivan County. However, Dirks notes that in the past six months Wal-Mart had been focused primarily on the McKee site in Wallkill. Richard Smith of R.J. Smith Realty of Pine Bush is representing the seller, Dirks adds.

New York State officials say that Wal-Mart is now eligible to apply for an $850,000 training grant and a $200,000 capital grant from Empire State Development. It is also eligible for a $600,000 grant and a $400,000 10-year interest free loan from the State Department of Transportation’s Industrial Access Program.

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