Annual report shows Kroger (KR) was a big-time job creator during recession

Company added 20,000 employees since 2008

CINCINNATI - The Kroger Co. has created 20,000 full- and part-time jobs since 2008, including 5,000 in the Tri-State, based on new data disclosed in the company's annual report and comments from company officials.

Kroger's annual 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicates total employment stood 343,000 on Feb. 2, 2013. That's 4,000 more than last year's total and 20,000 more than 2008. Driving the trend is a nine-quarter streak of increased sales per square footage in Kroger stores nationwide.

"Increased sales typically means more business," said Kroger spokesman Keith Dailey. "So, as our business has grown, so has employment."

The Cincinnati area has benefited from that national trend, but Kroger is also growing its headquarters employment. Since 2002, Dailey said, Kroger has doubled headquarters employment to 2,000 people, filling 25 floors in its Vine Street headquarters building and much of the space in a seven-story building across the street.

"We're at the tail end now of a transition that started several years ago where we brought associates from all over the country to Cincinnati," he said. "Almost every floor here is a Kroger floor here now. In years past that wasn't the case."

Kroger corporate employment in Blue Ash now stands at 1,000, Dailey said.

"It's a remarkable story and a remarkably quiet story that Kroger has decided to grow its corporate presence in Cincinnati," said Doug Moormann, a local economic development consultant and vice president of downtown-based Development Strategies Group LLC. "Kroger's not out there beating their chest about it. They're just doing it."

Moormann said Kroger's consolidation of headquarters jobs in Cincinnati has brought "hundreds of significant-sized businesses here because they are suppliers" to Kroger. The biggest example is DunnhumbyUSA, a market research firm that's half owned by Kroger and employs more than 600. Dunnhumby is building a $122 million headquarters at Fifth and Race streets downtown, where it's expecting employment to reach 1,100 by 2018.

"It's exactly why you want to have a Fortune 500 headquarters in your town," Moormann said.

Other numbers pulled from the Kroger annual report show Kroger has reduced its overall store count in the last three years but kept its total square footage constant at 149 million. It has reduced its number of manufacturing plants to 37, down from 42 in 2008. And it added 1,000 private label products to its store shelves in the last year. The total now stands at 12,000.

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