Md. gains warehouse, 700 jobs Staples chooses Hagerstown site to build facility

State beats 3 competitors

Governor offered firm more than $3 million in incentives, loans

April 13, 1996|By Marina Sarris and Kevin L. McQuaid | Marina Sarris and Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening is expected to announce Monday that Maryland has won a four-state competition to lure a Staples Inc. distribution hub -- and its 700 jobs -- to Hagerstown.

The governor will be joined by executives of Staples, an office-supply superstore based in Framingham, Mass., at a news conference in Annapolis about the move, government sources said.

Staples is expected to spend $50 million on a warehouse operation in Washington County. That will provide an economic boost to an area where the unemployment rate has been far higher than the state average this year.

Staples also had been looking at sites in Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, which have been vying with Maryland for new businesses and jobs.

In one prominent example, Maryland lost a battle with Pennsylvania in August 1994 for a Starbucks Corp. manufacturing and distribution facility, for which the Seattle-based coffee merchant planned to hire up to 500 people.

To lure Staples, administration officials offered the company state and local economic development loans and incentives worth more than $3 million, sources said.

The incentive package includes a potential $1 million loan carrying a 4 percent interest rate. Parts of the package must receive approval from top state lawmakers, some of whom hailed Staples yesterday.

"It's a very good company, and I'm delighted they're coming to Western Maryland," said House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., a Democrat from neighboring Allegany County.

Press secretaries for the governor and the state Department of Business and Economic Development declined to comment late yesterday. Staples officials could not be reached.

Staples, one of the nation's fastest-growing retailers with more than $3 billion in sales last year, also is expected to take advantage of various tax credits because portions of Hagerstown were recently designated an enterprise zone.

The company, which operates 459 stores, said it required the new distribution hub to service new outlets. This year Staples plans to open 125 stores.

The retailer intends to use the planned 1 million-square-foot Hagerstown facility to supply stores as far as 1,000 miles away.

A Staples official said last month the company hoped to have a new facility open early in 1997.

Based on its expected job figures, Staples will become Washington County's fourth-largest private employer, according to county statistics.

"This is a huge break, and my hat's off to the governor," said Del. D. Bruce Poole, a Hagerstown Democrat. "We've had 8 percent unemployment, and generally the economic picture has been pretty bleak."

The unemployment rate for Washington County was 8.3 percent in January, while the state average was 5.3 percent, according to statistics compiled by the state's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

In February, the Washington County unemployment rate dipped to 7.1 percent as the state average fell to 5 percent.

"This is going to be a real boom for Hagerstown because of the number of jobs, and because that area has had a tough time competing with Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania," said Wayne R. Gioioso Jr., president of Hunt Valley-based Mid-Atlantic Properties Inc. and a member of the group that owns the Hunter's Green business park where Staples is locating.

Hunter's Green, a planned 803-acre business park comprising five former farms, is at the junction of Interstate 70 and Interstate 81 in Hagerstown.

Staples will spend roughly $4.5 million for 115 acres there, Mr. Gioioso acknowledged.

Ultimately, the Hunter's Green site is projected to contain as much as 8 million square feet of office and warehouse space, according to Towson real estate firm KLNB Inc., which is marketing the property on behalf of the land owners.

Pub Date: 4/13/96

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