Warehouses finding homes in Franklin County, Pa.

September 23, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - As long as the labor market and land hold out, local development officials predict more distribution centers like the ones under construction to the south of Chambersburg are in store for the area.

"There are several reasons they are here - location, availability of land and availability of labor," said David Sciamanna, director of the Chambersburg Area Development Corporation. "The location won't change, but until the other two become problematic, we will continue to see more."

Earlier this year Kmart opened a distribution center in the Chambers-5 Business Park and Ingram Books opened its warehouse off Garber Road in the south end of the borough.


Nearby, Franklin Storage is consolidating its facilities under one roof, while Target Corp. is building an enormous distribution center straddling Interstate 81 and U.S. 11 that will be open next year.

Combined, these projects will create more than 3.3 million square feet of distribution space and bring at least 2,000 jobs to Franklin County.

Franklin County's access to major highways and railroads is the prime reason companies are coming here, said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corporation.

"We are in a great location in the middle of several primary transportation corridors and are a one-day drive to about 50 percent of the U.S. population," he said.

While there are no specific projects yet, Ross said he expects more, given the recognition Franklin County is earning in the distribution industry.

"I believe there will be additional projects like that. Whether they are as large as Target, I don't know," Ross said. "But at some point in the not too distant future there will be saturation in the market, particularly from a labor standpoint."

Sciamanna said he expects to see a slow-down in the short term as manufacturers snap up already finished buildings along the entire I-81 corridor.

"Until we see those facilities become fully utilized, we won't see many major new projects," he said.

Sciamanna expects Target will become one of the top five employers in the county within the next five years.

Target expects to hire 1,000 people in the next three years, although so far its hiring is limited to management.

"They will start hiring the first wave of about 400 hourly employees in the spring and over three years ramp up as demand dictates, getting up to 1,000 people," Sciamanna said.

These positions will be filled with local workers, he said.

Target announced last fall it would build a 1.35-million-square-foot distribution center on the 137-acre site bordered by I-81 to the east, U.S. 11 to the west, Guilford Springs Road to the north and Lighthouse Road to the south.

Construction is on schedule for a June 2003 opening, said Aimee Sands, a Target spokeswoman.

She said a Target retail store in Franklin County, however, "is not on the radar right now." The closest Target store is in Hagerstown.

Franklin Storage is building a 500,000 square-foot distribution warehouse to consolidate its current operations in the county and control costs, Vice President Dennis Perry said.

Construction began a month ago and the building at Wayne and Kriner roads should be complete by mid-April, he said.

At this point, Perry said it is not clear if the move will create new positions.

Filing for bankruptcy in January did not keep Kmart from opening its 850,000-square-foot distribution center in the former building in February.

So far, Kmart has hired about 200 employees for the distribution center and plans to add nearly 300 more over the next three years.

Ingram's 650,000-square-foot facility on Garber Road, just north of Pa. 316, opened this spring with 420 employees.

Ingram moved its operations from a smaller facility on Sheffler Drive and expects the number of employees to grow to 600 in the next three years.

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