PetSmart facility to be built

April 14, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

PetSmart Inc.'s decision announced Friday to build a large distribution center in Hunter's Green Business Center adds to the steady stream of development in the Hopewell Valley area.

PetSmart, one of the nation's leading suppliers of pet food and other products, announced it plans to open a 252,000-square-foot distribution facility by mid-August and employ 100 people within three years.

The jobs will pay about $9 an hour, which local economic development officials noted is higher than the county's per capita income.

"They know with unemployment being what it is, hovering around 3.8 percent, that it is important to be competitive," said Thomas B. Riford, marketing director for the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.


The facility will be in a building already under construction. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, which distributes medical journals, will also occupy a portion of the building.

PetSmart's distribution center will serve not only a planned store at the new Centre at Hagerstown, but its stores throughout the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic region, company officials said.

The Phoenix-based company, which was founded in 1987, has more than 500 stores in 44 states and Canada.

In a statement announcing the deal, PetSmart officials praised county officials and Tiger Development, the company that owns Hunter's Green Business Center.

"Washington County and Tiger Development provided a clinic in how best to treat a potential new business," said Richard Franz, PetSmart's vice president for real estate development. "We hear about places that claim to be 'business friendly.' Well, the folks in Hagerstown, Md., have proven it."

That, the low cost of doing business in Washington County, and proximity to two major interstate highways tipped the balance in favor of Hagerstown.

Riford said the county has developed a reputation for processing business developments quickly and efficiently.

PetSmart will join two other major developments in the business park. Tru-Serve and Staples each have large distribution centers there as well.

Lippincott will take up about 187,000 square feet of the 487,000-square-foot building. Tiger Development President Jeffrey C. Camp said another 57,000 square feet is available for lease.

The business park has between 450 and 500 acres of undeveloped land remaining. Camp said his firm has begun laying the groundwork to accommodate a 500,000-square-foot project next to Interstate 70. He said he does not have a tenant.

Camp said distribution centers, like manufacturers, create good jobs and do not place a burden on government services the way housing developments do.

"They create a great tax base. They're big buildings and they don't tax the schools," he said.

Washington County Commissioner William J. Wivell said he is pleased that the county has landed another business. But he noted that the county lags behind much of the state in household median income.

Wivell questioned whether the county could be more aggressive in attracting companies with higher-paying jobs.

"I haven't seen a lot of them at this point, and that's somewhat disappointing," he said.

However, Riford, the EDC official, said distribution operations diversify the economy.

Furthermore, he said the presence of Interstate 81 and I-70 make the region a natural for those types of firms. He pointed to this week's announcement that Toys R Us is building a 700,000-square-foot distribution center in Chambersburg, Pa.

"It's significant when within a week this Cumberland Valley corridor has two major announcements of nationally known companies wanting to locate here," he said.

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