United Parcel Service has bought land in Essex where it plans to build a major rail distribution center serving the East Coast.
The "consolidation hub" will be built on the 83-acre Marshfield Business Park in Essex that the company purchased for $9.02 million, said UPS spokesman Bob Kenney. It will be one of a network of hubs located around the country. The only other one announced so far will be built near Chicago.
The Essex hub is expected to open in three to five years.
"It's a new approach for UPS," Kenney said. The company, which says it invented the "hub and spoke" system of sorting packages in a central facility, is taking it a step further with much larger, regional hubs. The aim is to reduce the number of times packages are handled by bringing them all to a few major exchange points, he said.
No other local facilities would be affected by the opening of the hub. It will receive packages from a rail spur serving the park, and possibly by trucks. Workers will then sort the packages according to destination and put them on trains.
"The facility would serve as a sorting and exchange point for small packages that come in and out by rail," Kenney said.
The Chicago facility will cost $150 million and employ 4,000 workers by the time it is up and running in 1995. Eventually, it could handle up to 200,000 packages an hour.
Company officials have not decided how many people the Essex hub will employ or how much it will cost, but Kenney said it will be a fraction of the size of the one in Chicago, handling perhaps 50,000 packages an hour.
"They are still in the planning stages and they have a lot to consider," he said.
"The site was selected because it met a complex list of criteria," Kenney said. Among its advantages: central location for the East Coast, close to rail and highway links, and near a metropolitan area.
UPS, based in Greenwich, Conn., is the world's largest small-package delivery company, Kenney said.