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Center would add 180 new jobs

April 28, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Nashville-based Tractor Supply Co. has been growing so fast that the retail farm and ranch supply store chain plans to build an $18.8 million distribution center along Hopewell Road this year, company and economic development officials said Tuesday.

The distribution center would create 180 full-time jobs by December 2006, according to the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

The distribution center would employ approximately 100 people by January 2005, when the center is expected to start shipping products to its stores, said Mike Graham, vice president of logistics for the Nashville-based Tractor Supply. The plan is have the center open this December to start receiving inventory, he said.

In addition to the full-time jobs, the company probably will hire 10 to 15 seasonal part-time workers, Graham said.

Tractor Supply has distribution centers in Omaha, Neb.; Waco, Texas; Pendleton, Ind.; and Braselton, Ga., but has been expanding into the Northeast in recent years so there is a need for a distribution center is this area, Graham said.

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The center could handle serving 90 to 100 stores with the ability to grow to serve 150 stores over five years, Graham said. Tractor Supply has a store near Kmart on Massey Boulevard.

Tractor Supply would have room to expand the distribution center by 150,000 square feet and that need might arise as the company continues to grow, Graham said.

Construction on the 482,000-square-foot distribution center to be built north of Pavestone Co. on 53 acres in the Crossroads Corporate Center is expected to begin this spring, officials said.

The building would be slightly smaller than the Lenox distribution center, EDC Executive Director Timothy R. Troxell said.

The Washington County Planning Commission is expected to hear a proposal for the Tractor Supply distribution center site plan on Monday, Troxell said.

Troxell said Tractor Supply officials want to provide competitive wages compared with other local distribution centers. The industry average is about $11 to $11.50 an hour, he said.

Graham confirmed the company wants to provide competitive wages, but said the company had not completed a wage study.

The EDC was first approached about the possibility of Tractor Supply building a distribution center in Washington County last July, Troxell said.

The county competed with the Martinsburg, W.Va., Shippensburg, Pa. and Winchester, Va. areas, Graham said. State and county funding helped convince the company to build in Washington County, Graham said.

The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development will provide a $250,000 conditional loan from the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Fund to help Tractor Supply buy the land and build the center, an EDC press release says.

That loan and a $35,000 loan from Washington County will convert to grants if Tractor Supply creates 180 full-time jobs by December 2006, EDC Marketing Specialist Cassandra Latimer said.

The company also is getting a $50,000 state work force training assistance grant in fiscal 2004-05 and a $25,000 grant the following fiscal year, according to the press release.

A pre-annexation agreement was worked out with the City of Hagerstown for the deal to work, Troxell said.

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said the City Council still has to vote on the agreement, but the deal calls for the distribution center to be annexed into the city in five years. City property taxes would be phased in gradually after that, Breichner said.

An application had been filed for the distribution center to get city water service, Breichner said.

If city officials had not agreed to the deal, it would have broken the deal to bring Tractor Supply's distribution center here, Troxell said.

"We felt we needed to support the county in bringing this business industry to Hagerstown. That's why we worked to reach a compromise on the issue," Breichner said.

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