Hoosiers Aren’t Laughing At Whole Foods Move From Indiana To Chicago

whole foods
Mike Mozart
whole foods
Mike Mozart

Hoosiers Aren’t Laughing At Whole Foods Move From Indiana To Chicago

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Lots of jobs are leaving Indiana: Last month, Carrier Corporation announced it was moving 2,100 manufacturing to Mexico in the coming years. That’s on top of the 1,000 Northwest Indiana workers laid off by the steel industry last year. And, many fear the bleeding won’t stop.

Whole Foods’ announcement that it planned to replace its distribution center — and close 90 positions — from Munster, Indiana to Chicago came with a chuckle from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

He called it a great day for the Roseland-Pullman community, and “another bad day for Indiana…and I’m a very happy person.”

Emanuel’s comments hit a nerve, even down in Indianapolis. The loss of jobs is big issue in Indiana’s race for governor.

“I think the mayor’s comments were a reflection of the embarrassments that (Indiana Governor) Mike Pence has heaped on the citizens of Indiana,” said Jeff Harris, spokesman for Pence’s opponent, Democratic candidate John Gregg, in an interview with WBEZ on Friday.

Harris said Pence and the GOP-controlled Indiana legislature’s failure to adopt civil rights protections for the LGBT community, and declining infrastructure, is the reason businesses are leaving Indiana.

“Unfortunately, Mike Pence has made Indiana somewhat of a laughing stock and I think the mayor took advantage of that,” Harris said.

But Pence spokesman Matt Lloyd said Indiana’s economy is doing very well.

“More people are working in Indiana than ever before in the state’s history. There are 140,000 more private sector jobs today than when Governor Pence took office,” Lloyd told WBEZ. “Insinuating that Indiana is struggling is laughable.”

As for Emanuel making a punchline out of Indiana’s most recent loss, Llyod provided a “no comment.” Pence and Emanuel served in Congress together — but the Indiana governor often takes shots at Illinois when businesses leave the Land of Lincoln for his state.

“All Team Members and their positions will move to the new distribution center in Pullman, and with the increase in size, we expect to add additional positions to the distribution center team,” said Whole Foods spokeswoman Allison Phelps.

Phelps said the company ultimately chose Pullman because of the neighborhood’s skilled workforce and close proximity to the interstate.

“The new distribution center allows us to be apart of the transformation of the historic Pullman neighborhood and the larger location allows us room to grow and conveniently access current and future stores,” he explained.

The distribution center will be built right next to the new Method soap factory. It’s expected to open in 2018. The high-end grocer opened its first and only store in Northwest Indiana in Schererville last September. It has plans to open four more in Indiana including one in downtown Indianapolis.

Michael Puente is WBEZ’s Northwest Indiana Bureau reporter. Follow him @MikePuenteNews.