Phoenix Color expansion to provide 600 jobs


Phoenix Color Corp. plans to transform an 80-acre farm northwest of the Washington County Regional Airport into a $100 million book manufacturing complex that will provide more than 600 jobs, the company's chairman and CEO announced Tuesday.

At least 200 of the jobs will be available by the end of 1999, Louis LaSorsa said.

The new jobs will pay from $7.50 an hour for entry-level employees to between $17 and $18 an hour, LaSorsa said.

The new complex, the Book Technology Park, is one of Hagerstown-based Phoenix Color's two ventures into producing complete books, "one of the most exciting things" that can be done, LaSorsa said.

The company, which moved its corporate headquarters from New York to Washington County in 1992, now makes book components like paperback covers and book jackets at its plants in Hagerstown, Taunton, Mass., and Long Island City, N.Y.


It will make soft-cover books in workbook and digest sizes at its new Washington County plant and high-quality juvenile picture books at a plant scheduled to open in Rockaway, N.J., later this year, he said.

The expansion is great news for Washington County because it means good-paying manufacturing jobs that will help diversify the local economy, said Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook.

"We looked at that as a clean manufacturing facility with jobs that can provide an income to raise a family," he said.

Phoenix Color has a contract on the Martin L. Burkholder farm, which is east of Interstate 81 and south of the Citicorp Credit Services complex, he said.

Construction of the $38 million first phase, including a 170,000- to 200,000-square-foot book manufacturing plant and a multi-story office building, is expected to begin next month and to be completed by November, LaSorsa said.

The company's corporate headquarters will move there from Western Maryland Parkway, he said.

The book component plant, which currently is hiring and could possibly add up to 100 jobs in the coming year, will not move from Western Maryland Parkway, LaSorsa said.

Plans for the new $100 million "campus-style" Book Technology Park include two to four additional plant buildings to be added as the company's manufacturing business expands, he said.

The concept is to make different kinds of books in different buildings and keep administrative operations in one or more centralized administrative buildings.

The complex will include a $1.5 million corporate aircraft hangar, built by Washington County, on the property's southern border with the airport, LaSorsa said.

The company, which has one plane and is getting a second, will lease the hangar, he said.

The county competed with communities in Pennsylvania for the project, Snook said. The planning came together over the past three months, he said.

"I am elated at the caliber of jobs and the type of business that will be brought to the area," said County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers.

Bowers said the expansion plan fits perfectly with the county's long-term plans for development of the Interstate 81 corridor.

John C. Howard, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said Phoenix Color's expansion could help attract other industries.

"Phoenix Color has established themselves as our newest major ambassador," he said.

"Our best advertisement to those outside Washington County is the satisfaction of the industries we currently have," Howard said.

"I'm especially proud of our community's ability to support a project of this magnitude. It reinforces my own beliefs that we are a big league opportunity that needs to show the world its strengths," Howard said.

The Book Technology Park is part of a major expansion plan, which includes the second manufacturing plant in Rockaway, N.J., and two new book component plants, LaSorsa said.

The new 60,000-square-foot plant in Taunton, Mass., which opened in January, replaced another plant in Hingham, Mass., he said. The company also closed a facility in Wallingford, Conn., and distributed its work to its three other plants.

A fourth book component plant will open in Lebanon, Ind., in late 1998 or early 1999, LaSorsa said.

To fund the company's expansion, Phoenix Color will become a public corporation, with stock traded on NASDAQ, this year, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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