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Pet project

John Seelmeyer

PetSmart will open a new distribution center east of Sparks in mid-2008 that will be among the biggest ever developed in the region.

The Phoenix-based company, the nation’s largest retailer of pet food and pet products, will lease an 873,000-square-foot distribution center that will be built to its specifications at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center.

That’s just a hair smaller than the 915,564-square-foot distribution center opened by Wal-Mart at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center last year.

PetSmart didn’t identify the developer that will own the distribution center, nor did it indicate whether a builder has been selected. It said it signed a lease that runs through 2023.

Once the PetSmart distribution center reaches full operation, it will employ between 250 and 300 people, said Bruce Richardson, a company spokesman.

PetSmart already operates a smaller facility at Stead, a 199,000-square-foot distribution center that employs about 75.

The availability of that workforce, already trained in the way PetSmart does business, was one of the factors that led the company to select northern Nevada for the expanded operation, Richardson said.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, publicly held PetSmart said it will move out of the Stead building once the new distribution center opens.

The new center will handle the entire line of merchandise sold by PetSmart, distributing to the company’s stores throughout the West. The current center at Stead handles only the fastest-moving items.

Along the availability of trained workers from its existing operations, other factors that helped PetSmart choose a northern Nevada location were its proximity to major Western markets and the availability of skilled workers, Richardson said.

He said the company looked at several potential locations for the center.

PetSmart’s decision to locate at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center is a coup for the development, said Miles Ottenheimer, a spokesman for developer Lance Gilman.

“It emphasizes the confidence they and other companies have in the center because of its location near major rail lines, highways, the Reno Tahoe International Airport and the many amenities it offers that are not found in other industrial centers,” Ottenheimer said.

The company occupied its Stead distribution in 2002. In an SEC filing, it said the leases on that building run through 2009 and 2012.

Nationwide, PetSmart operates more than 900 stores, and more than 100 of them are in California.