- Hy-Vee is helping refurbish homes in Chariton, Iowa in an effort to provide more affordable housing options for its workers, according to the Des Moines Register. The town, which is where Hy-Vee was headquartered until 1995, has a distribution center that employs 1,300 and a store that employs around 75. Hy-Vee is Chariton’s largest employer.
- Hy-Vee has given $250,000 to the Chariton Valley Regional Housing Trust Fund. This year, the project is expected to renovate and sell four homes. Hy-Vee is also lending its construction division to the project to serve as a general contractor and to evaluate potential properties.
- The trust fund board selected a $30,000 house as its first project, and intends to resell the property for $60,000 after its work is done. The board hopes to list most homes around the market average for Chariton, which ranges between $50,000 and $80,000 currently.
Hy-Vee has made a name for itself as a supermarket that does a lot more than just sell groceries. But while its expansion into restaurants, fast-food franchising, health services and more has been focused on building new revenue streams, its shift into house flipping is a way to facilitate a better living environment for its workers.
Hy-Vee’s roots in Chariton go deep. The company moved its headquarters to the town after World War II, back when locations were known simply as “Supply Store” or “Service Store” (a contest in the ‘50s produced the current name, a contraction of the co-founders Hyde and Vredenburg). Today, Hy-Vee is still the top employer in Chariton, but the town’s housing supply is outdated, according to the Register.
With plans to add 100 more jobs to its local distribution center, Hy-Vee wants to ensure Chariton is a livable place for its workers. It also wants to make sure it can hold on to the employees that are currently in the town.
As far as economics go, the $30,000 the company is spending to refurbish a home featured in the Register article will pay for itself many times over if a loyal employee puts down roots there. With U.S. unemployment at around 4% right now, grocers are having to go the extra mile to keep workers in their ranks. Many, like Kroger and Walmart, have recently increased wages to stay competitive. Other retailers are offering perks like bonuses and company stock.
Might Hy-Vee expand its efforts to other communities? It’s possible, given the potential for return on investment. At the very least, it’s a bit feel-good community service that generates positive publicity for the company.