Controversial medical supply company coming to Visalia

VISALIA, Calif.

The V.W.R. Medical Supply Company wants to open a distribution center in Visalia near Kelsey and Riggin Avenue, but the company is in a battle with a powerful labor union.

V.W.R. is a Fortune 500 company building a new 500,000-square-foot distribution center here in Visalia. But the city and V.W.R. are facing legal action from the Teamsters Union -- who says the project could hurt the environment.

Tractors have already broken ground in Northwest Visalia on a $25-million distribution center. Medical supply company V.W.R. is building its west coast distribution center on the property. It plans to hire 100 people to work at the 500,000 square-foot facility when it opens next year.

"If you think of a school lab we actually get everything to them that can create that lab whether it's furniture, beakers, microscopes. So we provide a wide range of materials," said Valerie Collado with V.W.R.

Those materials also include some chemicals, which V.W.R. Representative Valerie Collado says will make up 8-percent of what's stored at the center. The handling of those chemicals are the basis of a lawsuit filed by the teamsters union against V.W.R. and the City of Visalia. They say transportation of chemicals will negatively impact the area.

Kevin Long with Teamsters Local 517: "We're just asking for the city to do environmental testing. We understand there's going to be hazardous chemicals coming into this area."

V.W.R. refused comment on the lawsuit, saying only that employees get safety training on handling chemicals. The Teamsters have a long history with V.W.R. The union has represented employees at the company's Brisbane, CA distribution center for more than fifty-years.

But V.W.R. says it has not decided yet if it will employ teamsters at the Visalia location.

City Manager Steve Salomon says there should be no question as to the process the city took to handle V.W.R.'s environmental permits.

"What I would tell you is we did not process this particular development any different than we would process Jo Ann which is caddy corner to them," Visalia City Manager Steve Salomon.

V.W.R. will sit next to Joann Fabrics Distribution Center. Salomon says the company's move to Visalia has prompted other large companies to look into opening here. He hopes V.W.R.'s investment in Visalia will help fill vacant industrial land surrounding the property.

Salomon says it's been a year and a half since large companies have shown an interest in coming to Visalia so this project is big for them. V.W.R. expects to open the distribution center by mid-2012.

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