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VOL. 124 | NO. 227 | Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Medtronic Unveils $65M Distribution Expansion

By Tom Wilemon

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Executives of Medtronic Inc. celebrated a $65 million expansion of its distribution center Tuesday morning that will allow the medical device company to ship additional products.

The Medtronic Distribution and Logistics Campus at 4340 Swinnea Road encompasses 22 acres and two buildings. The company purchased the property from Weston Co. then built or expanded existing buildings.

Eventually, Medtronic expects to have more than 260 people working at the facility. The Minneapolis-based company already employs 1,500 people in Memphis.

Rob Varner

Rob Varner, senior director of U.S. distribution operations for Medtronic, said devices from divisions other than the Memphis-based Spinal & Biologics Business division will be shipped from the city, which he called “one of the crown jewels” in the company’s distribution network.

“Now, Medtronic has a strategy for all the business units to take advantage of this location,” Varner said. “That’s why we expanded the location.”

Central intake

Devices in the company’s line of products for cardiac rhythm disease management and cardiovascular conditions will be some of the first to be added. The consolidation makes sense because of the city’s central location and Medtronic’s business partnership with FedEx, he said.

“Ultimately, all Medtronic businesses will have products coming through this facility,” Varner said.

The jobs creation will be staggered.

“In the relative short term in the next year to two years, we will add probably 50-plus jobs just related to the consolidation effort of the other businesses that will be distributing through Memphis,” Varner said. “Then there’s the normal growth of the business, jobs related to that, but specifically to our strategy to have other business units take advantage of Memphis’ location, we’ll be adding approximately 50 jobs.”

The expansion from the planning stages to the opening took about three years. The construction period was about 18 months.

Primed for growth

Several state, county and local officials were on hand for the ribbon-cutting, which was held in a hangar-sized room where a vertical carousel as tall as a two-story house organized containers. The facility has more than two miles of conveyance machinery and state-of-the-art automation.

“With the labor efficiencies we get out of automation, we’re able to redeploy that labor to the more labor-intensive activities that we still have,” Varner said. “We’ve been able to put a lot of labor into it, but we haven’t had to lay off people and that type of thing because of the additional growth and the additional products that are coming to Memphis.”

The buildings meet all current seismic codes. One 157,000-square-foot building is new construction. It was designed so 300,000 to 400,000 more feet of space could be added. Another existing building of 118,000 square feet had a 34,000-square-foot mezzanine level added.

Thoda & Associates PLLC was the architectural firm responsible for the expansion, and Linkous Construction Co. was the general contractor.

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