Light, Beauty & Order
by Natasha Ashenhurst • Photography by Heather Harris, Elements Photography
A new collection of museum-quality art is in the most unexpected place in Lacey. In fact, very few community members will have the opportunity to view the original pieces unless they take a tour of the privately owned business located off Hogum Bay Road or are one of the 230 employees who work there. Most of the pieces are from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and reflect the landscape and the wildlife of the Western United States.
This incredible collection is located in Uline’s new 811,000 square-foot warehouse and distribution center — which is surrounded by a stunning campus. Uline is a family-owned business and is the leading distributor of shipping, industrial and packaging materials to businesses throughout North America with over 36,000 products in stock and ready to ship from their 11 locations throughout North America with a combined facility footprint of 12.3 million square feet.
“Natural light and beauty are important to our CEO, Liz Uihlein,” said Aaron Francis, Branch Manager of the Lacey center. “She worked with architects to design the space with over 750 skylights and over 3,000 LED lights. Liz also oversees the interior design of all of our buildings, and her attention to detail is incredible. She believes we should all be able to work in a beautiful, clean, and well-lit space, and that is exactly what you’ll find when you visit any one of our 11 shipping locations,” he said.
In addition to the framed pieces installed throughout the administrative portion of the building, the warehouse is home to several floor-to-ceiling murals that depict the natural world and bring color and vibrancy to what could be a monotonous space. Liz Uihlein believes that beauty in one’s surroundings is so important she has her team carefully organize colorful shipping labels on shelves to create a cheerful backdrop to the warehouse space.
Francis believes that this philosophy is one of many at Uline that makes the company an attractive place to work and have a career creating company culture that encourages employees to stay, learn and grow with the company.
Uline’s Washington center made a move from Auburn to Lacey in February 2019, after they outgrew their space. The leadership team did an extensive search of potential locations between Vancouver BC and Portland, Oregon. According to Francis, the Lacey location won hands-down because of the space, the attractive rural setting, and the equidistance between Seattle and Portland, which is ideal from a logistical perspective.
Many employees who worked in Auburn made a move to Lacey, but Uline has had to hire 60 people locally in the last 18 months, said Francis. A few are still commuting from Auburn to Lacey. Still, many are finding that the Olympia/Lacey/Tumwater area has more affordable home prices than King County and are delighted to discover that they can get more house for their money in Thurston.
As the Lacey center continues to grow, expanding the workforce is Uline’s primary focus, and just as they have intentionally created a beautiful space, they are deliberately creating a culture designed to nurture employees to succeed.
“Most of our warehouse employees begin in packing and generally stay in that position for six months,” said Francis. They must show attention to detail and safety while working in a fast-paced environment. After they master packing, they can move to other warehouse positions such as picking. Pickers pick products for each order while harnessed into a forklift that can climb the eight-level-high racks. Eventually, they may have the opportunity to go through Uline’s leadership development program that teaches everything from writing to improving conversations with employees—tools people need to learn to transition into management. Graduates may stay where they are or can transfer to a new location.
Uline boasts that it offers better than average starting wages as well as an annual performance bonus, sales goal bonus, profit sharing, retirement savings plan with employer contributions, college scholarship opportunities for children of employees, highly competitive healthcare coverage, paid time off for vacation, sick and personal days, as well as additional days earned with tenure.
A strong advocate of wellness, Uline employees have access to walking trails in and around the campus, two kitchens, and an impressive fitness center with beautiful locker rooms and, yes, towel service.
“It’s Uline’s culture that has helped Uline land the top spot among large employers in the 2018 Top Workplaces survey,” said Francis. “We work hard to create a family atmosphere throughout our company. Today we are serving root beer floats, just for fun. Recently it was a chili cook-off at lunch. We work hard to create a culture that rewards people for excellent work, just as we have worked hard to create a beautiful space to surround us day-to-day. It all adds up to elevating our environment so that even what could be mundane is exceptional.”