An aerial view of the Walmart distribution center in Lewiston in 2017. Sun Journal file by Russ Dillingham

LEWISTON — Walmart announced Monday it is looking to hire 100 associates to fill vacancies and new positions at its massive Lewiston distribution center.

“We’re always looking for good, talented associates,” spokeswoman Michelle Malashock said. “It just so happens that this DC (distribution center) is also just needing to ramp up the volume at the same time.”

About 500 people work there now, Malashock said. The facility has seen “significant volume growth,” she added, with much success attributable to Walmart’s growing online grocery business.

Many of the positions are freight handling and order picking. Wages start at $16.90 an hour, and with premiums for shift work, freezer work and weekends can go up to $19.50.

The job news comes a week after Grand Rounds at the Bates Mill Complex announced it expects to hire 100 more people by the end of the year, doubling its workforce.

“That Lewiston-Auburn is seen as an area where these two major businesses, who are good employers, are making that choice to expand in this area and grow, there’s nothing more exciting than that,” said Mary LaFontaine, regional director of the state’s southern CareerCenters.

“We are in a tight labor market, that is no secret. However, I do believe any business today who is proving to be an employer of choice and has been able to attract and retain up until this point, they will be able to meet those numbers.”

A sign on a local lawn. Sun Journal photo by Kathryn Skelton

Walmart built its distribution center, which is about the size of 20 football fields, on Alfred Plourde Parkway in 2004.

It won the then-Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce’s Business Leadership Award for a large company in 2011. It is currently the third-largest taxpayer in Lewiston, behind Central Maine Power and Brookfield White Pines, involved in hydropower.

“It’s great to know Walmart is growing again,” said Lincoln Jeffers, Lewiston’s director of economic and community development. “They have been steady, they’re making investments to their systems, reinvesting in the community and looking to grow — that’s great news.”

Walmart reported $514.4 billion in sales for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2019, up 2.8% from the year prior, according to its corporate website.

The company has 156 U.S. distribution centers. Malashock said in addition to the 500 employees, Lewiston also has a separate, co-located Walmart transportation office and it is also hiring 20 truck drivers.

She said the company believes it stands out and can attract new hires with pay and benefits that includes up to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, a 10% store discount and a new program announced last week that offers the ability to pursue an online bachelors degree for $1 a day.

“We’ve seen already 500 supply chain associates sign up for that benefit,” Malashock said. “That includes books, fees and tuition. We’re seeing associates come to work for Walmart because of that.”

The Lewiston distribution center will host a hiring event this Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“On the store side, we don’t have a problem getting associates in the door,” Malashock said. “Obviously, we’re the largest private employer in the country and you can’t be that unless you have lots of applicants.

“Everybody gets that you can get a job as a cashier and work your way up in the company. What not everybody gets is you can load trucks and work your way up in the company. Our CEO, Doug McMillon, that was his first job, loading trucks in the back of a distribution center.”

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