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Gift cards are displayed for sale at REI's flagship store, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The national specialty outdoor retailer REI Co-op announced Wednesday it will build a 400,000-square-foot distribution center to employ 280 workers in Tennessee.

The new distribution center in Lebanon, Tennessee, will be the fourth for REI and will serve more than 70 REI stores on the East Coast and in the Midwest and South, including the local REI store in Lifestyle Way in East Brainerd. REI is the nation's largest consumer co-op and has other distribution centers in Bedford, Pennsylvania; Goodyear, Arizona; and Sumner, Washington.

"Opening a distribution center in Lebanon strategically positions REI for growth and complements the service areas of our other distribution facilities," Bill Best, REI vice president of supply chain, said in an announcement of the new facility. "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."

The new facility, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2023, is being constructed with industry-leading sustainability and technology features and will use 100% renewable, 100% electric energy provided through the Tennessee Valley Authority's green invest program. The facility also will operate as a zero-waste facility.

In a statement on the project, REI said "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."

Headquartered near Seattle, REI is a specialty outdoor retailer with 174 locations across 41 states and the District of Columbia. REI operates five stores in Tennessee that employ nearly 300 people across the state.

"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," Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in a statement Wednesday.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner

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