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Capito visits Macy's center site

Congresswoman sees progress on new facility expected to employ 1,000+

August 17, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., talks with Berkeley County Development Authority Executive Director Stephen Christian Wednesday as they tour the site of the future Macy's fullfillment center in Cumbo Yard Industrial Park along Caperton Boulevard.
By Matthew Umstead, Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito kicked off a two-day visit in the Eastern Panhandle Wednesday morning at the site of the future Macy's fulfillment center in Berkeley County, which officials said is on track to open in June of next year.

Capito, R-W.Va., said she would "do her part" to help the new 1.3-million-square-foot facility stay busy after being told while visiting the site that the retail giant's center would be fulfilling Internet orders placed at http://www.macys.com and http://www.bloomingdales.com.

Capito, who lamented that she missed the groundbreaking ceremony on April 15, said she was just awed at the enormity of the sprawling construction site.

"Obviously the size is just breathtaking," Capito said.

About one-sixth of the steel structure was under roof on Wednesday, according to Richard Archie, senior project manager for Jackson, Tenn.-based H&M Construction, the construction manager for the project.

Archie said the sheer amount of activity at the site in Cumbo Yard Industrial Park along Caperton Boulevard has attracted a steady stream of job seekers, which prompted the company to post a sign on the property advising people not to come looking for work.

"It's very dangerous for an individual that's not aware of what's happening," Archie said.

People need to contact subcontractors, not H&M, which isn't hiring individuals for the construction work, Archie said.

Archie told Capito that they did a significant amount of work to adhere to Chesapeake Bay polution prevention standards, but said the project didn't incur any significant regulatory hurdles.

The project's start was hampered by poor weather and the work had to be adjusted because of the clay soil, but Archie said the work remains on schedule.

In an interview, Capito defended the offering of millions of dollars in incentives to Macy's by state and county officials to attract the retail giant's investment.

"That part of it doesn't bother me because I think we're planting big seed here," Capito said. "And I think its going to grow from this, and anything you might give up on the front end, you're going to get the residuals as time goes on.

"I think you have to be innovative, creative and flexible, and I think that's what the economic (development) folks showed, so I say, 'More power to 'em.'"

Macy's will pay no property taxes for 15 years and no payments in lieu of taxes for six years, but the fulfillment center is projected to create a $30 million annual payroll and more than 1,000 jobs and even more seasonal workers, particularly at Christmas, officials said.

When asked what can be done to grow existing businesses, Capito said the nation's tax structure needs to be "predictable," and environmental regulations should not be an impediment to development.

"What I'd like to see with the Chesapeake Bay (regulations) with the EPA is give us some flexibility, give us some longer timelines to be able to meet these challenges," Capito said.

She acknowledged that the state is "playing catch up" with the bay issue, but the federal regulations without flexibility still might hurt business, she noted.

Capito, who along with fellow members of Congress are home for their four-week August recess, said the break gives her an opportunity to listen to concerns of her district.

She was joined at the construction site by Berkeley County Development Authority Executive Director Stephen Christian, who said the Macy's project has helped attract interest from other companies.

Berkeley County is on "the radar screen," and some prospective employers are "pretty exciting," said Christian, who hopes to be able to announce additional developments in the next few months.

Aside from the Macy's construction site, Capito's visit was to include tours of the new emergency room and cardiac-catheterization lab at City Hospital in Martinsburg, the American Public University System's new academic center in Charles Town, W.Va., and a W.Va. 480 pedestrian underpass project at Shepherd University.

Capito's office noted the congresswoman helped obtain $400,000 for the W.Va. 480 safety improvement project.  

This morning, Capito is expected to tour the ESSROC cement plant just south of Martinsburg. The plant recently underwent a major expansion and facility retrofit that Capito's office said amounted to a $650 million project.



Capito: Obama vulnerable

Because of the economic situation, Capito said she believes President Obama is vulnerable in the 2012 election.

"And I think that provides opportunity, and as a Republican I want to see us field a good strong candidate," she said.

"There's a lot of different energies in the field," Capito said when asked for her opinion of the Republican candidates vying for the party's nomination to challenge Obama.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann's win in the Iowa straw poll is evidence that the Minnesota congresswoman has been "underestimated," but Capito said she isn't sure Bachmann can pull appeal from across the Republican Party.   

"I think we're very far away from seeing whose going to be the victor there," she said.

"But she's definitely stirring something up," said Capito, who described Bachmann as "a fireball."

Capito, 57, said she would never run for President herself.

"That is (a) definite 'no,'" Capito said.

But will she follow in father's footsteps and run for governor of West Virginia one day?

"I don't know," Capito said, smiling.

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