In Wal-Mart's latest encroachment on Target territory, the retailer announced Tuesday that it will build a perishable-foods distribution center in Mankato to open in 2015.

The 420,000-square-foot building will employ 300 people, with the majority of the jobs being full time.

It's been a long wait for the city. Wal-Mart purchased the land on Mankato's northeast edge in 2005. Originally, the center was to be built in 2008, but the Arkansas-based discounter held back the expansion plans to catch up with future store openings, said Paul Vogel, Mankato community development director.

It's possible groundbreaking will occur at the end of the year, said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Lilia Garcia, but no construction schedule has been finalized. The company has not yet solicited bids for a general contractor.

The new center, which will be the only one in the state, will store and distribute perishable food to Wal-Mart stores in the Upper Midwest.

The center will ensure fresher, healthier options for customers, Garcia said. "We want to reduce the distance from farm to shelf," she said.

Wal-Mart also has a distribution center for perishable merchandise in Tomah, Wis., and general-merchandise centers in Menomonie and Beaver Dam, Wis. Wages for employees at the new center will range from $9 to $10.99 per hour, based on a 2007 memorandum of understanding and business subsidy agreement.

Garcia said the company expects to meet and exceed those requirements. In Minnesota, the average wage for a full-time store employee is $12.34, Garcia said, although she did not indicate wages for area distribution-center employees.

Wal-Mart may also add an adjacent 400,000-square-foot general merchandise center at the same location in the future, but no timeline was set. "It's not currently a need," Garcia said. "We're focused on perishables now."

Wal-Mart opened Minnesota stores in 2012 in Lakeville, Brooklyn Center, Burnsville and St. Cloud and expanded in Redwood Falls. It opened a store in Princeton earlier this year. A supercenter is under construction in Blaine.

Wal-Mart is the largest grocery retailer in the United States, with groceries accounting for about half of its sales. □