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REI’s East Coast footprint is significantly expanding. In Fall 2023, the co-op will open a new 400,000-foot distribution center in Lebanon, Tenn., that will support its more than 70 REI stores and nearly 5.6 million members living in the service area of the facility.
“Opening a distribution center in Lebanon strategically positions REI for growth and complements the service areas of our other distribution facilities,” said Bill Best, REI vice president of supply chain. “Most importantly, the center will reflect the co-op’s values by putting people first and apply a new standard in fighting the climate crisis.”
In a press release, REI said that the new location, situated on 41 acres in Wilson County, will be one mile from I-40 and three miles from downtown Lebanon. REI selected Lebanon after looking at several other locations in the South and considering key factors that included general population statistics, job market potential, construction readiness, existing regional environmental commitments, and cost to build.
The location will considerably reduce shipping times to fulfill customers’ online purchases and be able to support more than 70 REI stores and the 5.6 million REI members in the region. The new distribution center will also employ more than 280 new staffers and will “proactively address the employee experience, community engagement, and environmental impact,” according to the release.
REI chose Al. Neyer, a commercial real estate developer and design-builder, as its partner for the new distribution center. The Nashville-based team has supported site selection and land purchase; engaged with Lebanon’s elected officials and economic development council; and facilitated introductions with regional power suppliers. Al. Neyer is also the architect and general contractor for the project.
“Our team has been working closely with REI over the past year and a half to develop this leading facility that will not only be a great place to work and a great addition to the community, but will also make a lasting positive impact on the environment,” said Justin Hartung, Al. Neyer vice president of design-build.
REI’s new distribution center aligns with the co-op’s climate goals
The new distribution facility, REI’s fourth, supports the co-op’s substantial commitment to climate action. Other distribution centers currently exist in Bedford, Pa.; Goodyear, Ariz.; and Sumner, Wash. Both the Pennsylvania and Arizona facilities are certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The Arizona building, opened in 2016, achieved LEED Platinum certification—the highest level in the U.S. Green Building Council’s rating system—and is the first distribution center in the country to achieve both LEED Platinum certification and Net Zero Energy.
The Lebanon distribution center will mirror the industry-leading sustainability features that define the Arizona location. “The design is centered on a productive and healthy built environment that intentionally takes into consideration how employees work, rest, and connect to nature,” the company said. “The building will address the entire life cycle of carbon impacts by using 100-percent renewable, 100-percent electric energy and operating as a zero-waste facility.”
Investing in the community
As it always does when it moves into a new region, REI is baking in support for the local Tennessee community. REI currently has more than 267,000 lifetime members in the state. It opened its first Tennessee retail store in Brentwood in 1999. Today, REI operates five stores and employs nearly 300 people there.
In 2021, REI invested $102,000 into 17 organizations including Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, Friends of the Smokies, Overton Park Conservancy, Southeastern Climbers Coalition, and Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association.
“Even before we are fully operational, we look forward to becoming an involved partner in Lebanon and beyond,” said Best.