After nearly two years of planning and construction — which included carving 40 feet of earth from a hillside — metro Augusta's largest warehouse building was officially opened Tuesday at Grovetown's John Deere manufacturing complex.
The 524,000-square-foot building, which sits on a 43-acre site between the company's two plants in the Horizon South Industrial Park, will supply the facilities with the millions of parts — everything from nuts and bolts to tires and cab assemblies — needed each day to produce roughly one tractor every seven minutes.
Previously, the company's parts were sourced from seven different warehouses spread throughout Augusta and Columbia .
Demand for parts has increased dramatically as the company has doubled production in Grovetown during the past five years, factory manager Mary Pat Tubb said during a grand opening celebration for the new warehouse, which was developed by McDonough, Ga.-based Bennett Distribution Services LLC and its affiliates.
She said the warehouse will drastically reduce the time needed to replenish low-inventory items — known as "hot" parts — from as much as three hours to as little as 15 minutes.
"You can imagine if you put in a hot part request, and if the part is coming all the way from Columbia, South Carolina, it's not very hot any more by the time it reaches the factory," she said. "So we're so thrilled to have all our production material now stored in this one building right across the street, so the parts actually will be hot."
At roughly the size of three Walmart Supercenters, the warehouse that Deere calls "LV1", is 32-feet tall and roughly 1,250 feet long and 420 feet wide with 90 dock doors. It has 100,000 feet of fiber optic cabling running through it, and if its 16,000 pallet racks were laid out end-t0-end one row high, it would stretch for more than nine miles, said Danny Lowry, a partner in Hoback Investments LLC, a real estate developer and affiliate of Bennett Distribution Services.
This year, Moline, Ill.-based John Deere is celebrating its 25th year in Grovetown. It produced 2,500 tractors during its first year in operation at Horizon South. Last year it produced 80,000. It's millionth unit, a 5100M model, rolled off the assembly line in 2014.
Officials with privately held Bennett Distribution Services did not disclose what the facility represented in terms of a capital investment, but Robbie Bennett, executive director of the Development Authority of Columbia County and no relation to the McDonough company, said it will strengthen the John Deere operations and potentially enable future expansion.
"This facility is sure to be an asset and a landmark for many years to come," Bennett said at the event attended by dozens of local business leaders and government officials, including Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross, who thanked the company for its investment during the past 25 years.
"We of course in Columbia County are never satisfied and we're also rather impatient....so what are the plans for the next building?" he said jokingly.