Under Armour to add 350 jobs

Sportswear maker plans expansion in Locust Point

December 11, 2007|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,Sun reporter

Baltimore-based Under Armour Inc. is planning to add 350 employees at a site in walking distance of its waterfront headquarters, significantly increasing its city work force at a time when it is aggressively expanding into new markets.

The sports apparel company expects to open offices in a building now used as a warehouse and freight terminal in Locust Point. Baltimore developer Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse has a contract to purchase the 7.2-acre property, between Beason Street and Key Highway, and wants to do a $14.2 million renovation if it can get zoning approval.

Under Armour employs 450 people at its headquarters across Key Highway in Tide Point, which Struever owns.

"The connectivity is fantastic," said Bob Rubenkonig, a spokesman for Struever, which anticipates that the building will become part of the Tide Point complex.

Under Armour officials did not return calls seeking comment yesterday. Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development arm, said the company did not ask for financial incentives.

Its expansion plan is one of several big ones in the city announced this year. Baltimore-based money manager Legg Mason Inc. said it intends to move 200 to 300 employees from Baltimore County when it relocates its city headquarters to Harbor East. Last month, financial services firm Morgan Stanley said it plans to add up to 900 employees here in the next 10 years, tripling the size of a local business division.

The jump to 800 employees at Under Armour would come over several years. M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the BDC, said he is talking to the company about a possible need for more space in the future. It has a distribution center in Anne Arundel County in addition to its city location.

"Their growth in Tide Point has been phenomenal," Brodie said.

The planned jump in employment, first reported by the Baltimore Business Journal, didn't surprise analysts.

"This is a company that has been experiencing revenue growth rates of 40 to 50 percent over the last couple of years," said Reed Anderson, a senior research analyst with D.A. Davidson & Co., who does not own Under Armour stock. "At that rate, they're doubling their business every two to three years. The fact that they would [nearly] double their employment over the next several years makes sense."

Under Armour, which sells most of its products through other companies, opened its first retail store last month - at Westfield Annapolis Mall - and expects more will follow.

It also has expanded beyond the sweat-wicking clothes for athletes and weekend warriors that made it a household name. Last year, Under Armour inked a six-year deal with the National Football League to be one of three authorized suppliers to fit players with cleats. And it is trying to increase its international business, now a small part of the company's revenue.

"Basically, they're going to need the employees," Mark Fightmaster, an analyst who follows Under Armour for Schaeffer's Investment Research Inc., said of the planned expansion.

Fightmaster, who does not own Under Armour shares, said the company is "probably the biggest challenger to Nike."

Under Armour expects to sign a six-year lease on the property, Rubenkonig said.

Struever wants to turn the building into about 90,000 square feet of offices, 41,000 square feet of warehouse space and a 7,000-square-foot factory outlet meant for employee purchases, according to its zoning filing. The plans include 459 parking spaces.

Struever's request for "conditional use" approval to revamp the building - it sits in a zone meant for industrial business - is scheduled to be heard by the city Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals this afternoon.

Overflo Warehouse LLC, the Baltimore distribution, warehousing and logistics company that uses the building, would not comment on the deal yesterday.

jamie.smith.hopkins@balt sun.com

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