National specialty outdoor retailer REI Co-op has announced that it is building a distribution center in Lebanon, Tennessee to support its continued growth on the East Coast and in the Midwest and South. Expected to open in fall 2023, the building and its operations will proactively address the employee experience, community engagement and environmental impact.
REI’s Lebanon distribution center will be approximately 400,000 square feet and employ more than 280 staff. Situated on 41 acres in Wilson County, the facility will be one mile from I-40 and three miles from downtown Lebanon at 1400 Murfreesboro Road. The location will considerably reduce shipping times to fulfill customers’ online purchases and be able to support more than 70 REI stores. Nearly 5.6 million REI members live in the service area of the new distribution center.
Al. Neyer is the co-op’s 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. Additionally, Al. Neyer is the architect and general contractor for the project.
“Opening a distribution center in Lebanon strategically positions REI for growth and complements the service areas of our other distribution facilities. 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,” says Bill Best, REI vice president of supply chain. “We have a strong local partner that understands REI’s brand, sustainability ethos and interest to create healthier communities.”
“Al. Neyer’s integrated team of developers, licensed architects, and construction management experts are excited to partner with REI to deliver a best-in-class distribution center that will set an important precedent for sustainability in Greater Nashville and beyond,” states Justin Hartung, Al. Neyer vice president of design-build. “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.”
REI selected Lebanon after looking at several other locations in the south and considering key factors that included, but were not limited to, general population statistics, job market potential, construction readiness, existing regional environmental commitments, and cost to build.
REI believes that climate change, without question, is the largest existential threat to both the co-op and planet. As the co-op makes investments to better serve its growing membership and the outdoor community, it is also taking action on climate change by committing to more than halve its carbon footprint by 2030. REI is also leveraging its influence in the retail industry to encourage broader change, including growing a responsible footprint, launching product impact standards, enabling employees and members to take a stand on issues critical to the future, and more.
The Lebanon facility will complement REI’s three existing distribution centers in Bedford, Pennsylvania; Goodyear, Arizona; and Sumner, Washington. Notably, the Bedford and Goodyear locations are certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Its Goodyear distribution center that opened in 2016 achieved LEED Platinum certification—the highest level in the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) green building rating system—and the first distribution center in the country to achieve both LEED Platinum certification and Net Zero Energy.
REI’s Lebanon distribution center is being constructed with industry-leading sustainability and technology features that complement its Arizona site. 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 building will address the entire life cycle of carbon impacts by using 100% renewable, 100% electric energy and operating as a zero-waste facility. REI will also be an active participant in regional renewable energy solutions.
“REI is a respected brand that has been trusted by outdoor enthusiasts for over 80 years, and I’m proud the company has chosen Tennessee for its newest distribution center,” shares Governor Bill Lee. “Our state’s central location and unmatched quality of life make it the ideal destination for a company so committed to outdoor recreation, and I thank REI for its commitment and job creation in Lebanon.”
Community investments, partnerships and advocacy for outdoor access
As a member-owned co-op, REI annually shares its profits with the outdoor community through member dividends and rewards, employee retirement contributions and investment in nonprofit partners.
REI actively partners with nonprofits across the nation to steward and maintain local trails and public lands to connect more people to the outdoors. Over the last five years, the co-op has invested more than $440,000 in Tennessee-based land agencies and nonprofit partners. In 2021, $102,000 was invested in 17 organizations including Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, Friends of the Smokies, Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, Lula Lake Land Trust, Overton Park Conservancy, Southeastern Climbers Coalition, Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association, and others.
The co-op launched the Cooperative Action Fund earlier this year, a community-supported public charity designed to harness the collective power of the co-op’s 20 million members and 15,000 employees to build a more just, equitable and inclusive outdoor culture. Three Tennessee groups received grants in the fund’s first investment round, including Adaptative Adventures in Nashville and Black Girls RUN! Foundation chapters in Memphis and Nashville.
“Even before we are fully operational, we look forward to becoming an involved partner in Lebanon and beyond,” adds Best.
REI’s Tennessee presence
REI has more than 267,000 lifetime members in the state, and the company opened its first retail store in Brentwood, Tennessee in 1999. Today, REI operates five stores and employs nearly 300 professionals in the state.
In addition, REI’s adventure travel company has operated guided trips in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for 14 years. The company has six multi-day adventure trips through the park with backpacking, hiking, multisport and rafting itineraries. The destination is consistently one of the co-op’s most popular in the national park system. In the last five years, REI has hosted more than 2,800 guests in the Great Smokies, many of those were first-time visitors.