International humanitarian relief organization Convoy of Hope is set to move part of its operations into Republic by next summer, as a 230,000-square-foot distribution center is under development.
Spokesperson Jeff Nene said the building would replace its current distribution center in Springfield on South Patterson Avenue. He said the Springfield-based nonprofit has outgrown the 330 S. Patterson Ave. facility, located just off Chestnut Expressway. However, leaving the Greene County area wasn’t a serious consideration for the 26-year-old organization that arrived in Springfield in 1996.
“Springfield is home, so we wanted to stay here,” he said. “This is really where we grew up.”
Convoy of Hope’s headquarters will remain in Springfield, Nene said. The nonprofit’s administrative building is located just south of Commercial Street.
Nene said Convoy of Hope purchased around 135 acres at the Republic and Springfield border. He declined to disclose the purchase prices, noting multiple plats were combined for the project. The project cost is yet to be determined, as the design isn’t finalized, he said.
“Our goal since the beginning is to have the sale of the Patterson building almost cover the cost of the new property and construction,” Nene said. “We’re hoping to be in it in probably about a year, maybe a little less.”
Groundwork has started at the project site on West Carnahan Street near James River Freeway, said Republic City Administrator David Cameron. Q & Co. LLC is general contractor with Buxton Kubik Dodd Design Collective as architect, Nene said.
Cameron said the city and Convoy of Hope began discussions on possible properties in early 2019. The property ultimately selected is certified through the Missouri Department of Economic Development as a development-ready site and is zoned for heavy manufacturing and distribution, according to St. Louis-based Missouri Partnership. Cameron said Convoy purchased around 100 acres of the property formerly called Trogdon Industrial Park from Mitch Drury of Drury Properties Inc.
“It was just a process of elimination which one really hit the infrastructure piece, long-term goals for the buyer and accessibility too,” Cameron said. “This being certified said it was ready for development. It did not have to go through a city review or rezone or even go before council for approval.”
In addition to housing its distribution, Nene said the new building also would allow the nonprofit to consolidate its disaster services team from leased space in Ozark, where it’s been for around five years. The Republic center will have dedicated space for the team to keep and service its equipment.
“That was one of the things that has really prompted the search,” he said. “We like our team being together. We do a lot of cross training between departments.”
The disaster services team was extremely busy in 2019, as Convoy responded last year to 24 disasters domestically and 23 internationally, Nene said. The combined total broke the record of 38 set the year before. Its 2020 budget is on par with its 2019 total of $169 million, he said.
The current Springfield distribution center is larger, at 300,000 square feet, Nene said, but the new building would provide more space for the storage of food and disaster relief products because it will have higher ceilings.
The building also will accommodate Convoy’s volunteer operations, Nene said, including the weekly Hands of Hope program, in which people sort, pack, count and label items for distribution.
Additionally, the nonprofit has leased around one-third of its space in the Patterson Avenue building to Warson Group Inc. for several years, Nene said. The St. Louis-based occupational footwear company, which does business as Warson Brands, soon will exit the building. It will move into a 160,000-square-foot distribution and warehouse facility currently under construction in the new 220-acre Southwest Missouri Rail and Business Park in Strafford.
Convoy of Hope also considered land in the Strafford area east of Highway 65 near Interstate 44, but infrastructure requirements made it cost prohibitive, Nene said.
Nene said Convoy of Hope sold the South Patterson distribution center to O’Reilly Automotive Inc. (Nasdaq: ORLY), which operates its headquarters on the same street. He declined to disclose the financial terms. Until the Republic building is completed, Convoy of Hope is leasing the property in Springfield.
Mark Merz, O’Reilly Automotive’s vice president of investor relations, reporting and planning, said the building would be used to support the auto parts retailer’s distribution operations. Terms were not disclosed.
Convoy of Hope will occupy a growing area of development in Republic, Cameron said. The building will be next to Brookline Business Park, which includes Everything Kitchens, Heart of America Beverage and Watson Metal Masters Inc.
“There’s a lot of opportunity in that area,” he said. “If you looked to the property north of it, there’s a lot of upside on nearby Farm Road 144 for future growth and expansion, not just for Convoy but other businesses that could locate in that area.”
While Convoy of Hope is yet to arrive, Ozarks Technical Community College just expanded its operations in Republic. The newly opened campus began its first semester last month in the new $7.3 million Republic Center on 7.7 acres at 584 W. U.S. Highway 60.
Cameron estimated around 200 acres are still available near the future Convoy building, although the land has no utility connections. However, the city is willing to work with interested parties to overcome potential development barriers, he said. City spokesperson Mike Landis said no incentives were offered to Convoy.
Nene said the Republic center would have room for growth, both in size and employment levels. Office and warehouse space can be expanded, if needed. The nonprofit currently employs 224 in the Springfield area and is adding to its staff on a regular basis, he said.
“The building itself won’t dictate hiring more people, but we will be hiring more people just as we continue to grow,” he said. “We’ve been in the building we’re in for 20 years. One of the overriding goals after we decided we were going to buy property and build was we wanted to have something that will last us for at least the next 20 years.”
Web Editor Geoff Pickle contributed.
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