Hy-Vee is exploring construction of a 1 million-square-foot distribution center in Austin, Minn., the first outside Iowa for the Des Moines-based supermarket chain.

"The site in Austin is being considered for the project due to its centralized location in our eight-state territory and interstate access, as well as the community's ample workforce," Hy-Vee said in a statement.

The company's Iowa distribution centers are in Cherokee and Chariton; the one in Ankeny, a Des Moines suburb, is operated through a subsidiary. The Chariton location is also 1 million square feet. The Cherokee site's square footage is 650,000.

Construction of the Austin center's first phase could begin in 2019. The building would be on a 150-acre site north of Interstate 90 on the western edge of Austin. The land is not yet owned by Hy-Vee.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for Austin, and we are excited to ­continue our great relationship with Hy-Vee," said Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm.

Each of Hy-Vee's distribution centers employs several hundred people, according to Hy-Vee spokeswoman Tina Potthoff.

The project also is expected to have a significant economic boost for Austin's local contractors, as well as the city's tax revenue. Austin is a city of 25,000 about two hours south of Minneapolis and home to Hormel Foods.

Hy-Vee has not yet been offered any incentives to build the project, according to the Des Moines Register.

Hy-Vee has 24 locations throughout Minnesota, including one in Austin.

The supermarket chain opened its first two stores in the Twin Cities in 2015. It now has seven metro stores with a Shakopee location opening in November. Two more will open in Robbinsdale and Columbia Heights in 2018, and a Maple Grove location at Hwy. 101 and Bass Lake Road will open in 2019. A second Maple Grove store at Hwy. 610 and Maple Grove Parkway, plus stores in Farmington, Chaska and Lakeville, also are planned.