The Maryland Port Administration is preparing to increase its efforts to make Baltimore a major warehouse and distribution center and boost traffic through the city's port.
Already, a number of companies have moved their distribution centers to the area. Most recent was FILA Footwear U.S.A., which in October announced plans to move its national distribution center to the Holabird Industrial Park.
Paul Farragut, MPA sales manager for cargo and project development, said he intends to more actively woo potential distributors next year. He said he believes Baltimore has a chance to take advantage of a consolidation in the warehouse industry where businesses are looking to centralize their operations. Baltimore can offer comparatively inexpensive warehouse lease rates, a large market and a transportation network into the Midwest.
"We really are well situated to serve this kind of business," he said.
The effort to attract warehouse and distribution business started about two years ago as the MPA and Greater Baltimore Committee pondered ways to boost activity through the Port of Baltimore.
Although warehouses don't employ a great number of people or pay high wages, the industry does help increase cargo shipments through the port and indirectly creates jobs.
"What we've been concentrating on is a number of industry groups such as chemical companies, food, auto parts, metals and retail like FILA," Farragut said.
Currently, the area has about 70 public warehouses, or 12 million square feet, containing some kind of port cargo, not including company-owned warehouses.
SKW Chemicals was looking to move its distribution center out of New Jersey because of costs associated with environmental regulations in the state. Shipside/Marine Freight Distributors in Baltimore offered the company space in its 250,000-square-foot warehouse, and the company accepted. Now Shipside/Marine is pursuing other metals and chemical businesses with distribution centers in the New York area, where warehouse prices can be as much as 50 percent higher than in Baltimore.
Belt's Distribution Co. put together a package to attract FILA to Baltimore after that company terminated its relationship with a New Jersey importer. With help from the city and the MPA, Belt's worked out an agreement to provide the footwear manufacturer a 100,000 square foot warehouse in southeast Baltimore.
FILA selected Baltimore in order to be close to its sale and marketing offices in Hunt Valley. FILA expects to move at least 720,000 pairs of shoes through the port during its first year.