Partnership will expand grocery distribution in Upper Midwest

Partnership will expand grocery distribution in Upper Midwest Main Photo

22 Nov 2021

economic development, News, Stearns Electric

A partnership between a national grocery wholesaler and a Minnesota-based supermarket company will rely on a large cold-storage warehouse served with electricity by one of Great River Energy’s member-owner cooperatives.

Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc. (AWG) recently entered into an agreement to be the primary wholesale supplier to Coborns, Inc. — a 100-year-old employee-owned grocery retailer operating 59 grocery stores across Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsin. This agreement will establish AWG’s Upper Midwest Division, expanding its distribution of fresh and frozen foods throughout 28 states to the Greater St. Cloud, Minnesota, area.

AWG plans to temporarily supply its products out of a warehouse facility already located in St. Cloud’s I-94 Business Park beginning in January 2022. This operation will serve the region until the company’s new fresh and frozen warehouse, expected to be up and running later in 2022, will be in the same business park. This state-of-the-art warehouse that is yet to be built will provide 1.2 million square feet of space and is expected to create over 400 new jobs.

“The Upper Midwest is home to Coborn’s and other extraordinary independent grocers. We have experienced strong growth in this region, but distance and distribution costs weren’t favorable for our members or us,” said AWG President and CEO David Smith. “We believe this new division will be a gamechanger for grocers in the area.”

This project coming to fruition was through months of partnership between the city of St. Cloud, Rice Companies, Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation and others — including Great River Energy and its member-owner cooperative Stearns Electric Association (Stearns) — to demonstrate to AWG why its region should be chosen for the company’s expansion.

Stearns, a recognized local leader in economic development, serves the businesses located at I-94 Business Park with electricity. The co-op works with its wholesale power provider Great River Energy to promote its available, shovel-ready plots in the business park to commercial and industrial companies looking to start up or expand.

“This project is a prime example of the work we do, which is promote our service territory as a great place to do business,” said Tom Lambrecht, manager of economic development services at Great River Energy. “We are proud of the role Great River Energy and Stearns will play in serving facilities that are integral to feeding people across the region with reliable, affordable electricity.”