Washington County was in running for Macy's distribution center

Timothy R. Troxell said land prices and availability tipped the balance for Berkeley County

July 20, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |
  • W.Va. Sen. Herb Snyder, middle, and Md. Del. Neil Parrott, right, listen to Stephen Christian's points concerning economic development at the Quad State Conference held in Martinsburg, W.Va., Wednesday.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — After sharing details of their counties' economic successes Wednesday, officials from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia listened to a description of "Project Olympus."

That was the code name for the $150 million, 1.3-million-square-foot Macy's distribution center that will be built in Cumbo Yard Industrial Park off W.Va. 9 in Berkeley County, W.Va.

The center, which will serve and, is expected to bring about 1,200 full-time jobs and another 700 jobs during peak periods.

Steve Christian, the executive director of the Berkeley County Development Authority, said April, May and June are expected to be busy because Macy's has the biggest wedding registry in the world, and those are wedding months.

Christian and his counterparts from Washington County, Franklin County, Pa., and Frederick County, Va., spoke Wednesday at the Quad State Legislative Conference in Martinsburg, W.Va.

About 20 state legislators from the four local states attended the annual conference, which was held for the 23rd time.

Timothy R. Troxell, the executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said Washington County was in the running for the Macy's center, but had trouble finding a parcel big enough.

The center will be built on more than 90 acres in Berkeley County.

Troxell said Berkeley County also had an advantage because of lower land prices.

The four counties along the Interstate 81 corridor are "friendly competitors" in their quest to attract businesses and jobs, he said.

Each economic official stressed the importance of focusing on existing businesses, which, according to Troxell, usually provide about 75 percent of new jobs.

Troxell said one of Washington County's recent successes was a Recovery Zone Facility Bonds program that used money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Washington County had about $14 million worth of tax-exempt private financing to distribute to projects worth at least $3 million.

When other jurisdictions didn't use all of their allocated money, Washington County found itself with another $5 million to distribute.

All told, RZFB projects created more than 200 new jobs, Troxell said.

Other positive developments cited were Potomac Edison putting a headquarters in Washington County, the Volvo plant north of Hagerstown expanding its production, and plans to open a new aeronautics school.

L. Michael Ross, the president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp., said the Quad-State area has had good moments despite the national economic slump. He suggested that there might be a magic dome over the region.

Ross said Franklin County is seeing "great recovery" in its manufacturing segments, such as Manitowoc, JLG and Volvo Construction Equipment.

The biggest challenge is the availability of labor, he said. Seven of the top employers in the county expect to collectively have more than 1,000 job openings in the next 24 months, Ross said.

Patrick Barker, the executive director of the Winchester-Frederick County Economic Development Commission, said the expansion of O'Sullivan Films in Winchester, which will create 174 more jobs, and a $40 million Kraft project that will add another 100 positions, were among the highlights in his county.

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