Governor visits Jos. A. Bank, heralds company's success


Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc., a Carroll County-based manufacturer, has more than doubled in factory size and added more than 100 jobs in the past year, a success story that grabbed the attention of state officials.

Attired in a classic Jos. A. Bank business suit, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., escorted by the company's chief executive officer, toured the clothier's distribution center in Hampstead last week, congratulating its employees and making a pitch for Maryland businesses.

While striding through the cavernous building, Ehrlich stopped frequently to chat with employees at sewing machines, sorting bins and computers.

"We are the little engine that could that now claims 4 percent of the clothing business in Maryland," said CEO Robert N. Wildrick.

Bank employs about 3,000 nationwide, including nearly 500 at its distribution warehouse and corporate offices in the Hampstead Industrial Park. The menswear company operates more than 300 stores across the country and plans to have at least 500 retail outlets by 2007.

The company, recognized in trade publications as one of the fastest-growing in the country, opened its second Hampstead distribution center in January, adding 289,000 square feet to its 209,000-square-foot building along Route 30.

The additional jobs brought its Hampstead workforce to nearly 500.

The company consistently reports increases in sales from its stores, catalogs and the Internet. For the eight months ending Oct. 1, comparable store sales increased 6.6 percent and combined catalog and Internet sales increased 24.7 percent, according to company officials.

Wildrick credited county and state support for the success of the business.

"Carroll County has supported us in everything we have wanted to do," he told a crowd of about 500 gathered in a warehouse to meet Ehrlich. "I am one of the few executives who can pick up the phone and get the governor."

Ehrlich called the company's growth phenomenal and said Jos. A. Bank "is in the vanguard with what is happening around the state."

Carroll is a growing county with limitless opportunities for business, Ehrlich said.

At a recent ceremony in Annapolis, the state recognized Jos. A. Bank and Carroll County Foods for expansions and employment opportunities. Carroll's population increased nearly 25 percent in the past decade and its workforce is lauded across the state, officials said.

"This is a growing county with a fine school system and a high quality of life," Ehrlich said. "There are pressures brought about by everybody moving here, but there are programs in place to preserve its way of life."

Ehrlich has visited several Carroll businesses in the past few months, including a groundbreaking at the Warfield Corporate and Culture Center in Sykesville.

"These visits show that Carroll County is becoming the business destination in the Baltimore region," said Larry Twele, county director of economic development. "We are positioning ourselves to accept job growth."

Andrea Thomas Harrison, director of public relations for the state Department of Business and Economic Development, said the visits show the governor's commitment to business and help keep him current on commerce issues.

"He wants to know what helps companies do business and what holds them back," Harrison said.

During an impromptu conference with Bank employees and several county and state officials, Ehrlich offered to answer questions.

The first was on the Hampstead Bypass, a $76 million, 4 1/2 -mile road that has been nearly 40 years in the planning. Construction will begin early next year and take about three years to complete.

The bypass will significantly ease traffic congestion on Route 30 through the town, a route that is part of the daily commute for nearly all Bank's employees.

"I figured someone would ask about the bypass," said Andrea Boling, human resources administrator at Bank. "It is a subject near and dear to everyone's heart here."

Others asked about education, marketing Maryland, the outlook for the 2006 legislative session and disaster preparedness.

Ehrlich wished the business "continued success" adding, "I will continue to buy."

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