Jos. A. Bank might move Growth leads firm to consider transfer to bigger office space

Decision awaits space study

Hampstead leaders say transfer would be blow to town's plans

February 04, 1997|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

A year after clothing retailer Jos A. Bank Clothiers Inc. closed its Hampstead sewing factory, town officials are hoping that history doesn't repeat itself.

The company acknowledged last week that it is considering moving its headquarters, and town leaders say the change would be a blow to Hampstead's effort at balancing residential growth by retaining local employers and attracting new businesses.

"I'm hoping the county is on top of the situation and is making some effort to show that we're interested in keeping them here," said Hampstead Town Manager Neil M. Ridgely. "It's a good clean industry, and they're a good neighbor."

Continued growth over the past few years has forced the clothing retailer to look for a larger space for its administrative offices, said Bank Chairman Timothy F. Finley. He said the company has looked at several sites in Baltimore and Baltimore County.

Finley said the company is awaiting the results of a consultant's space study -- which should be completed in about two weeks -- before making a decision.

"We haven't ruled out staying here; we just have to see that study," he said.

Said Hampstead Mayor Christopher M. Nevin: "Obviously, we'd like to see them stay. You never like to lose jobs in any municipality."

John T. Lyburn Jr., the county's economic development director, said his office is engaged in a "good, open dialogue" with Bank officials.

"We've been in contact with them and they've been in contact with us," he said.

If the retailer moved its headquarters from the Hampstead site, it would mean a loss of 100 to 150 jobs from the area. The distribution center, which would remain in Hampstead, employs about 100 people. Depending on company growth, Finley said, more workers could be hired at the center.

"I imagine we'll be hiring people to the extent that we will grow," he said. "It's not that much of a loss in employment."

Finley said Bank did not consider moving its headquarters to an office site in Carroll because the county is not convenient for employees in the company's administrative division. They oversee the merchandising and operations of Bank's stores in Towson, Baltimore and Annapolis.

"Carroll County is at the opposite end of the spectrum," Finley said. "That's the problem, particularly when you're making a million trips up and down the road."

To cut costs five years ago, Bank moved its headquarters to the Hampstead center, which the company owns, from offices it leased in Owings Mills.

Since then, Finley said, Bank has grown from 36 stores to 85, with plans to open 12 this year.

After two difficult years in the men's clothing industry, Bank has emerged in a stronger position because of increased sales of men's suits and ties.

The apparel company has 1,000 employees in Maryland, at the distribution center and headquarters, a cutting center, two city plants, and stores in the Baltimore area and Rockville.

The possible relocation of Bank's headquarters comes a year after the company closed its 35,000-square-foot Hampstead sewing factory as a cost-saving measure. The move eliminated the jobs of about 100 employees who manufactured suit jackets and sports coats.

The factory's closing played a role in the demise of Bauerlein Meats, a local market patronized by Bank employees, Ridgely said.

IDI Corp. moved into Bank's former building on South Carroll Street two months ago, but the company has about 10 employees.

Pub Date: 2/04/97

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