MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A spokesman for Macy's Inc. stood under a large tent Friday morning and tried to explain the enormity of the new $150 million Internet-service center to be built in the Cumbo Yard Industrial park.
"It's tough standing here today trying to imagine the magnitude of this building," said Jim Sluzewski, senior vice president of corporate communications.
William L. Stubblefield, president of the Berkeley County Council and emcee for Friday's ground-breaking ceremony, took a stab at describing its size when he urged the audience of nearly 100 to look to their left at a far-off copse of trees, to their right to another far-off row, then far to the rear at another stand of trees for the back wall.
Sluzewski said 22 football fields will fit inside the center, as will 309 basketball courts. If all of its 12-foot-wide, precast wall panels were laid end-to-end they would stretch longer than a 5K run.
The building, called a fulfillment center, when it opens in May 2012, will cover more than 1.3 million square feet. It will be the largest facility of its kind in the nation, according to a company news release.
The Berkeley County center will employ about 1,200 workers, plus another 700 during peak shopping seasons.
In his remarks, Peter Longo, president of logistics and operations for Macy's, said in terms of technology the center's interior "will look like the inside of the Space Shuttle. This is the largest single investment in the company's history."
Longo said Macy's online business is growing 35 percent to 40 percent every year.
Macy's operates more than 900 stores in 47 states and is a $25 billion-a-year business, he said.
Sluzewski said the company has about 166,000 employees, most of whom work full-time.
The new center — two smaller ones are in Oregon and Tennessee — will be built on 92 acres in the industrial park off Harlan Springs Road. It will have parking spaces for about 12,400 cars.
U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., praised the manner in which the deal to bring Macy's to Berkeley County was handled by company, state and local officials. There were no leaks, he said.
"It was very professional, perfectly done, a textbook way to do business."
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, also D-W.Va., said negotiations with Macy's began two years ago.
Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin received a standing ovation even before he spoke.
Tomblin, a Democrat is one of 16 candidates — including eight Republicans, six Democrats and two from the Mountain Party — running to the remaining two-year term for Manchin, who stepped down as governor last fall to replace the late Robert C. Byrd in the Senate.
Tomblin said the effort to bring Macy's to the state was down to New York and West Virginia. He said company executives chose The Mountain State because it was fiscally responsible. The state is in the black and hasn't raised taxes in 17 years, he said.
"They liked the way we handle our finances," Tomblin said.