WACO, TX-Waco keeps unwrapping big gifts and there’s still a week until Christmas. The latest package came from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which announced Tuesday that it will build a 202,000-sf returns processing center in Waco.

Bentonville, AR-based Wal-Mart plans to start work on the center in summer 2003, start hiring workers (about 200) in January 2004 and be ready for processing returns by spring 2004, a company contact tells GlobeSt.com. The center will serve Wal-Mart stores in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Last week, Tractor Supply Co., based in Nashville, said it would begin work in January 2003 on a 305,000-sf distribution center in Waco. The center, which replaces an existing 100,000-sf facility, will serve dealers in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

What the two facilities, which are to create about 370 jobs, have in common is their address. Both will be situated in the 1,800-acre Texas Central Industrial Park at Interstate 35 and US Highway 6. The industrial park is on Waco’s south side and west of I-35.

The logistics-and-distribution business is one of six industries that Waco is targeting with its economic development efforts to take advantage of the city’s location along the interstate and about 100 miles from Dallas-Fort Worth to the north and Austin to the south.

The Wal-Mart contact tells GlobeSt.com that location fits the company’s criteria. “It’s centrally located to an area we want to serve,” she says. “And it’s got the work force to staff this facility.” She says the Fort Worth-based engineering firm Carter & Burgess Inc. assisted Wal-Mart in finding the site.

Rollin Ford, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president for logistics, said the center is an example of the company’s commitment to Texas in economic and community development.

Goods returned to Wal-Mart stores in the five states will be taken to the Waco center for processing. The company has 359 stores and 13 distribution centers in Texas, where it has nearly 118,000 employees.

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