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Board-cutting opens Lowe's new flatbed distribution center

October 29, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - With a cheer and a team sawing effort, an 8-foot 2-by-4 stud was cut Thursday to signify the opening of Lowe's new flatbed distribution center on Wesel Boulevard.

"This is the most challenging one we've ever done," said Rob Hicks, site acquisition manager for Mooresville, N.C.-based Lowe's.

Hicks wasn't talking about cutting the board, but preparing the 52-acre site for the distribution center. Workers had to drill through a lot of rock and level the land Lowe's bought from CSX Corp.

Lowe's invested $17.8 million in the project, which includes constructing an approximately 200,000-square-foot facility, Hicks said.

The bigger distribution center at 990 Wesel Blvd. replaces a leased 60,000-square-foot warehouse on 26 acres at 914 S. Burhans Blvd. that opened in 1994 and closes today, said Pennie Guske, manager for the new center.

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The new main warehouse, which is approximately 169,000 square feet, allows Lowe's to store more product lines and a higher volume of products, Hicks said.

The flatbed distribution center, Lowe's 12th, stores long, heavy products such as lumber, plywood and pipes, said Jeff Foster, director of flatbed distribution for the southern region.

Lowe's added an acceleration/deceleration lane and a turn lane to Wesel Boulevard in front of the distribution center site, said Debbie Everhart, Hagerstown's economic development director.

Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Timothy Troxell said work to keep the distribution center in Washington County began in August 2001.

Lowe's officials considered sites in Martinsburg, W.Va., and Taneytown, Md., government and Lowe's officials said. All of the sites had difficulty such as rock or the possibility of drilling into caves, Hicks said.

Company officials decided to stay in Hagerstown because of the work force and the central site for distribution to Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and parts of New York, company officials said.

Lowe's received financial assistance from Hagerstown, the county and the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

The state gave Lowe's a $150,000 conditional loan and a $10,000 training grant, Troxell said.

The county gave Lowe's a $50,000 conditional loan and the city gave the company a $45,000 conditional loan, he said.

Lowe's must keep 38 permanent full-time positions - including 10 new positions - for at least five years for the loans to become grants, Troxell said.

The distribution center has approximately 45 employees, including 18 new positions, according to a company statement.

Being in a state enterprise zone, Lowe's will get city and county real estate tax credits for 10 years, Troxell said.

Pay at the center starts at $10 an hour and is capped at $13.50 an hour, Guske said.

Lowe's has an employee stock program that often allows participating employees to retire after 20 years, Guske said.

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