JOHN D. HOMAN The South
MARION — Entering the city’s newest distribution center, ReaderLink, is like entering a major metropolitan airport. There’s a vast amount of space engulfing you with pockets of busy workers going about their tasks.
There were stacks upon stacks of floor-to-ceiling inventory pallets spread over 100 meters in length. Workers placed returned books on conveyor belts for reuse. There was shredding and recycling going on. Forklifts moved the product.
Essentially, it’s the modern version of factory life with multi-million dollar air conditioning units to keep workers and their surroundings comfortable, clean and sterile in a facility that measures 1.1 million square feet, or 26 acres covered.
ReaderLink, which serves more than 100,000 retail chains and specialty stores nationwide, moved into the former Circuit City building just over a year ago. He is the anchor tenant of this gargantuan complex, leasing 630,000 square feet with plans to acquire an additional 100,000 square feet in the near future.
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ReaderLink’s publishing division, Printers Row Publishing Group, is one of the top 10 US commercial publishers. The company distributes interactive children’s books, activity kits, adult reference books and classic literature.
“One of the primary functions of this facility is to centralize inventory for our publishing company, Printers Row Publishing,” said Jeffry McReaken, plant operations manager. “We serve customers such as Walmart, Target, Sam’s and Costco.”
The Oakbrook, Illinois-based company has six distribution centers nationwide, including Marion, known as the Midwest Publishing Distribution Center for ReaderLink. Other distribution centers are located in Salem, Virginia; Winder, Georgia; Romeoville, Ill.; Denton, TX; and Ogden, Utah.
ReaderLink has become the largest full-service book distributor in North America, reaching 99% of the US population each week and selling one-third of all commercial books printed.
McReaken said there may have been 10 employees in the early stages of the fulfillment center transformation, but over time that number grew to 90 full-time employees.
“And we still have 35 vacancies to fill,” McReaken said proudly. “They primarily include general warehouse positions, as well as forklift operators. We will be adding more positions in the coming months. Our business continues to grow.
ReaderLink, which was established in 2011, made an initial investment of $3.3 million under an expansion grant agreement with the City of Marion. The city secured funding through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to help the company purchase equipment, such as forklifts and other indoor transportation, and more importantly , a sorting device for book returns.
McReaken said ReaderLink runs book programs for all major retailers, distributing a wide variety of children’s and adult books. The publishing group’s brands include: Canterbury Classics, Dreamtivity, Portable Press, Silver Dolphin Books, Studio Fun International and Thunder Bay Press.
“ReaderLink doesn’t just take orders from businesses,” McReaken said.
Marion’s Cam Curry said he has been employed at ReaderLink since July 2021 as a forklift operator.
“I like interacting with people here and I like the regular work,” he said, adding that starting work over a year ago he has seen the business grow or “come to life” over time, he said, and it’s exciting. to him.
Curry said he also appreciates working in a clean and comfortable environment. In addition to an extensive cafeteria, there are rest rooms and changing rooms.
McReaken, who also served as Circuit City’s general manager before it closed about 13 years ago, is a Marion native and a SIUC graduate. He said ReaderLink employees commute from as far away as the Mount Vernon area.
ReaderLink is located at 1100 Glenn Clarida Drive on the far west side of Marion. The distribution center is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Those interested in employment with ReaderLink should browse the website at readerlink.com to learn more about the company and potential career opportunities.