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Lenox to begin shipping Jan. 5

December 17, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Lenox Inc. will begin shipping out of its new 500,000-square-foot distribution center on Jan. 5 with the 162 hourly and management employees from its current local operations, but company officials said Tuesday they don't know how many new jobs will be added.

The addition of new equipment that makes operations more efficient has reduced the need to create as many new jobs as previously planned, said Lenox President Stan Krangel. Krangel and the company's senior management team were in Washington County on Tuesday to check out the new distribution center.

When the approximately $28 million distribution center project was announced in February 2001, company officials said the center would add 120 new jobs.

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That was cut to 70 new jobs by October 2002 after Lenox officials evaluated plans to consolidate U.S. facilities and to improve efficiency. Further efficiencies have reduced that number again.

Fewer than 70 new jobs are expected to be created after the center opens, but how many and when those positions will be filled has not been determined, said Carl H. Marcinkowski, vice president of distribution and transportation.

Lenox is switching from a heavily manual operation to a heavily automated one, officials said.

In February 2001, company officials said the local operation employed 185 to 270 people during its busy season from July to November.

In October 2002, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development announced a $150,000 state loan toward $7 million worth of equipment for Lenox.

That five-year loan with fixed 3 percent interest could be forgiven in part or whole if Lenox meets certain performance criteria, including the creation of new jobs and retaining a certain number of jobs through December 2006, department spokeswoman Tori Leonard said Tuesday.

Lenox received a $100,000 county grant the company will have to pay back in part or whole if Lenox does not employ 236 people as of December 2008, said Tim Troxell, executive director for the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

Lenox sells fine and casual china, stemware, flatware, figurines, ornaments, picture frames, clocks, vases, serving pieces, and metal, china and crystal gifts.

Lenox is consolidating 10 distribution centers in the United States into two. The new center at 16507 Hunters Green Parkway will house items for wholesale and retail sales.

Lenox employs about 3,500 people companywide, Krangel said.

The three existing Lenox operations in Washington County will close and the new center will open simultaneously. Lenox will sell the distribution center on Industrial Lane. It leased space for the other two local operations.

In February 2001, company officials said the average pay for local Lenox distribution center workers was $11.73 an hour.

People interested in applying for a job at Lenox can call 240-366-2000 for more information.

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