Fila sets foot in Holabird center Italian sports shoe firm racing for U.S. market.

October 11, 1991|By Kevin Thomas | Kevin Thomas,Evening Sun Staff

There will be lots of shoes, although not nearly as many jobs, once Fila USA opens its $5 million distribution center next spring at Baltimore's Holabird Industrial Park.

Officials on hand for a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday said the new distribution center will include approximately 160,000 square feet of space and employ about 30 people.

Based in Biella, Italy, Fila chose the Baltimore location after deciding to relocate its distribution center in Carlstadt, N.J. Officials said Baltimore was chosen because it is near the company's U.S. headquarters in Hunt Valley, where 25 people are employed.

During the distribution center's first year of operation, the Italian sportswear company plans to use the center to handle more than 720,000 pairs of athletic shoes. The shoes are to be shipped through the Port of Baltimore for distribution to retail stores nationwide.

The company's chairman, Enrico Frachey, said yesterday that Fila is "ready to make our bid for an important share of the athletic footwear market."

Founded in Italy in 1924, Fila began as a manufacturer of undergarments and moved into the sportswear market in 1972.

In 1983, Homer Altice, a Baltimore entrepreneur, began Fila Footwear USA by purchasing a license agreement from the Italian company to operate a franchise out of his home.

In seven years, Altice and four employees oversaw sales that went from $1 million the first year to more than $54 million in 1990. This year, Fila Holding S.P.A., based in Italy, repurchased the U.S. franchise.

Officials estimate that among non-American trademarks, Fila's sales are second only to German-made Adidas in the U.S. athletic footwear market.

Sales in 1991 are projected to total $70 million and could hit $100 million by 1992, officials said.

Officials yesterday gave credit to Belt's Realty Service Inc. with helping to bring Fila to Baltimore. Also playing a role was the Baltimore Development Corp., formerly known as Baltimore Economic Development Corp., which manages 13 city-owned industrial parks, including Holabird.

The general contractor on the project will be Glen Arm Construction Co. of Columbia. The architect is Robert T. Hofmann of Robert T. Hofmann & Associates in Towson.

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