Johnson County is in the middle of a building boom.
Massive new retail stores are being built throughout the county and southside, with other existing stores being remodeled and expanding. Kroger is in the process of building three new or expanded stores, while Costco opened its first southside location in late June. Meijer will open its new Franklin location in 2017.
These new and improved stores will provide consumers with more options in everything from groceries to clothing to flat-screen TVs. But at the same time, they provide something more valuable to local residents — jobs.
The companies building the stores are counting on local workers to staff them, and each one will add hundreds of new jobs, from cashiers to bakers to managers.
Story continues below gallery
“It’s really all kinds of people that we need,” said John Elliott, spokesman for Kroger.
When Costco opened a 150,000-square-foot store on June 23, the company needed people to work in a variety of different jobs and sections of the store. Employees were needed to staff the gas station, deli and produce area, photo center, tire center and food court, among other sections.
To fill those positions, the company hosted a job fair and set up tents at locations throughout the county to sign up both new members and potential employees. People could also apply online on Costco’s website.
Meijer is constructing a building that will be more than 200,000 square feet at the corner of Commerce Drive and U.S. 31 in Franklin. Though the company’s specific job creation numbers were not available, it employs more than 65,000 people in 220 stores throughout the Midwest.
Much of the activity going on around Johnson County has centered around Kroger and its three projects.
The company has marked the Indianapolis area as a focal point of expansion over the past two years. The Johnson County construction projects are part of a nearly $500 million expansion investment for Kroger throughout central Indiana.
More than 4,000 jobs will be added when all of those 37 projects are done. Indianapolis is one of the few cities in the U.S. where Kroger is making that investment, Elliott said.
In Johnson County alone, the three construction and expansion projects will add about 500 new jobs, though more may be possible, Elliott said.
Each location is facing a new kind of project, that requires a different level of staffing.
“You’d think that food retail is a fairly straightforward business model, but it’s not,” Elliott said. “There’s a lot of complexity to it, when you think about how tight the margin is initially and other financial indicators, the number of turns we need to do with inventory and the intense competition.”
The current Franklin Kroger store on U.S. 31 is being replaced with a new Kroger Marketplace store, Elliott said. The new building will be 123,600 square feet, more than double the existing location.
While the Kroger in Franklin is already staffed with 130 people, Kroger needs approximately 200 new employees to run the new, larger store. Until all of the hiring is done, it’s unclear how many positions will be full-time and how many will be part-time, Elliott said.
“We look at the jobs piece in two ways. The first is more than 200 net new jobs that will come to Franklin,” Elliott said. “But it’s also job security for the existing associates. You’re not just hiring and bringing in new people, but it becomes promotion opportunities for those existing associates.”
A second location on the corner of State Road 135 and Smokey Row Road is what Kroger considers a “net new store” — a building where no previous Kroger location had existed before. The 100,000-square-foot structure will require about 275 new employees to staff, Elliott said.
The Greenwood Kroger store on U.S. 31 is also slated to undergo an expansion in 2017. Using the existing store near Worthsville Road as its foundation, Kroger plans to acquire smaller businesses surrounding it and reshape its floor plan. Final design plans are underway for that project, so employment needs are not yet known, Elliott said.
On top of the new store locations, Kroger is also implementing its ClickList online ordering system to the Indianapolis metro area. The service allows shoppers to go online, browse through a catalog of more than 40,000 items and place an order. You will be given a time to pickup your order, and your groceries will be ready for you when you arrive.
Though the service is not available yet in Johnson County, it is offered at the southside Indianapolis location on Thompson Road.
“That brings additional employment needs to take all of those orders,” Elliott said.
With so many new people coming into the company, Kroger has created specialized training centers to teach employees how to use the store’s technology, how to approach their jobs and how to interact with customers.
All different types of worker experience is appreciated, Elliott said. A department manager would have different needs than a cashier or a bagger. One constant is some knowledge of computers and technology skills, but as long as they have the capacity to learn about Kroger’s systems, they should be fine, Elliott said.
“We really look as much about what kind of person they are and if they fit the high expectations in terms of customer service and customer interaction as much as we do raw skills,” Elliott said.
A northside Indianapolis training center opened on June 2, and a southside location will be operational by the end of the summer to support the Johnson County stores, Elliott said.
More employees will be needed in every department, from cashiers and baggers to cake decorators to department managers. To staff its stores, Kroger has developed a specific jobs website, jobs.kroger.com. People can look for jobs by ZIP code and submit an application for open positions.
The company also had a national hiring fair at every Kroger store in the country focused on employing veterans and has planned three additional fairs this year. The first of those resulted in just short of 12,000 new employees hired, Elliott said. The next of those fairs will be in July, again with a focus on military veterans and their families.
New retailers opening in Johnson County:
Where: 4628 E. County Line Road, Indianapolis
Size: 150,000 square feet
Employees needed: Unknown
Where: U.S. 31 and Mallory Parkway, Franklin
Size: 123,600 square feet
Employees needed: About 200 new employees
Where: Smokey Row Road and State Road 135, Greenwood
Size: 100,000 square feet
Employees needed: Approximately 275 employees
Where: 2200 Independence Drive, Greenwood
Size: Expanding existing store; exact size of expansion still being decided
Employees needed: Unknown at this time
Where: Commerce Drive and U.S. 31, Franklin
Size: More than 200,000 square feet
Employees needed: Unknown at this time