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Company moving operations to old GM plant

July 06, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

RANSON, W.Va. - A bulk mailing company in Ranson that has thrived in the area since coming here in the early 1990s will move its operations to Berkeley County, resulting in a "huge economic loss" for the city, officials said Wednesday.

In a move to create more space for the growing company, AB&C Group Inc., will consolidate its Ranson operations with operations in Winchester, Va., and Charles Town, W.Va., and move them into a vacant section of a former General Motors plant off W.Va. 9 in Berkeley County, said Steve Gregg, chief marketing officer for the company.

AB&C Group Inc. handles bulk mailing for various companies.

For some client businesses, AB&C mails gifts and other items to customers.

In some cases, the customers use toll-free numbers to do business with organizations. The numbers ring into "call centers" operated by AB&C workers who help customers with transactions.

Some of AB&C's clients include The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Golf Association, Healthy Directions, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, National Geographic Society, National Rifle Association and Reader's Digest.

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AB&C Group, at 1 Executive Way behind Fairfax Boulevard, has a call center and a warehousing operation in Ranson, Gregg said. The company also has a mail processing operation in a former grocery store along George Street in Charles Town, a call center in Orange, Va., and a warehouse in Winchester, Gregg said.

AB&C has 650 employees and about two-thirds of them are in the Jefferson County and Winchester operations, Gregg said.

Gregg said AB&C needs more space to handle expected growth in business. The company has about 200,000 square feet of space with its Jefferson County and Winchester locations but will have a little more than 400,000 square feet at the former GM plant, Gregg said.

AB&C plans to move the Winchester operation to Berkeley County by October and its Jefferson County operations into the Berkeley County location next spring, Gregg said.

The company's corporate headquarters is in Tysons Corner, Va., and it is not known if those operations will be moved, Gregg said.

The planned move caps at least two years of work by company officials to find a new location and attempts by local government officials to find the company another home in Jefferson County.

Jane Peters, executive director of the Jefferson County Development Authority, said her agency tried to come up with different scenarios to keep AB&C in Jefferson County.

But it was difficult to do, given the size of the building AB&C was seeking, Peters said.

Peters said company officials began expressing an interest in moving after AB&C was acquired by Blue Sky Brands.

Blue Sky Brands produces catalogs and acquired AB&C to support its catalog operations, Gregg said. Gregg said he does not anticipate the acquisition to affect jobs at AB&C.

"It's just one of those things. Obviously we are extremely disappointed," Peters said of AB&C's move to Berkeley County.

"It's going to be a huge economic loss," Ranson City Manager David Mills said. "You couple that with the Kidde closing, it's quite a loss," said Mills, referring to the decision earlier this year by officials with Kidde Fire Fighting Inc., to close its Ranson facility along Mildred Street where about 126 people work.

Kidde officials decided to close the plant, where firefighting equipment is manufactured, because of high operational costs and a highly competitive market.

Mills said Kidde and AB&C generated a little more than $100,000 in revenue for Ranson every year.

Gregg said he could not give any details about attempts to keep AB&C in Jefferson County.

"I know we looked throughout the area there," Gregg said.

GM officials announced in 1999 that they would build a new $26 million plant behind its older plant in the Cumbo Yard Industrial Park off Grade Road west of Martinsburg. GM officials said they would keep the old plant, which has 2.2 million square feet of space.

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