$21M center, 100 jobs on way to Bucks?

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A $21 million distribution facility and 100 new jobs could be coming to Richland Township in Upper Bucks County.

Township Manager Stephen Sechriest confirmed that United States Cold Storage wants to build a 240,000-square-foot site for the project’s first phase, with a potential 504,000-square-foot expansion at Heller and East Pumping Station roads. The facility would bring about 100 new jobs, Sechriest said.

The site is near Quakertown and east of Route 309, fairly close to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstate 78, Sechriest said.

“They want to open next year; this is the preferred site but there are other sites,” Sechriest said. “The site has rail access; that’s one of the reasons they chose this site.”

United States Cold Storage, which provides refrigerated storage services to the food industry, has a distribution center in Bethlehem. Sechriest said that facility would be similar to the one in Richland Township.

The company has submitted applications for land development with the township and filed applications to go before the township’s zoning board, Sechriest said. The company would like to get relief from zoning restrictions, including a special exemption and 10 variances, he added.

Ginovus, a consultancy firm based in Indianapolis, is providing consulting services for United States Cold Storage.

No decision has been made on a location, and the storage distribution company is not making any further comments at this time, said Larry Gigerich, managing director at Ginovus.

However, Mickey Hoffman, director of corporate development for United States Cold Storage, said the property is a nice location that’s close to its two other facilities in Bethlehem and Hazleton.

“The rail access is nice,” Hoffman said. “We have one customer we are working with now for that site.”

This customer does not necessarily need rail service, but it’s an amenity that’s good to have when planning for future growth, according to Hoffman.

The company also is looking at locating the distribution site in Fredericksburg, Lebanon County, and may choose that site instead.

“Right now, it’s probably one or the other. We have not closed on the property, we do not own either property,” Hoffman said.

Both the Fredericksburg and Richland Township locations are greenfield sites, Hoffman said. These sites are vacant parcels of land that never were developed.

The $21-million-project cost – and 100 jobs – are just for phase one, Hoffman said. For the distribution facility, the company would complete the buildout in three phases, beginning in the center of the building to accommodate for future expansions.

The company plans to open a facility at one of the sites in mid-2014, he added.

The majority of the 100 workers hired for the facility would be warehouse staff, including forklift drivers, mechanics, office staff and clerical workers, Hoffman said.

The Richland Township property covers nearly 60 acres in a planned industrial zone, according to a property information package from Mutual Real Estate Corp.

The Bucks County Economic Development Corp. has been working with United States Cold Storage to help it possibly establish the site as a Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act district, which would allow for tax exemptions, said Robert Cormack, executive director for the Bucks County Economic Development Corp. in Doylestown.

According to a document from the Redevelopment Authority of Bucks County – which offers guidelines on LERTA administration – any county, city, borough, incorporated town, township, institutional district or school district could elect to participate in the program. Tax exemptions may be based on improvement costs or the uniform maximum cost set by municipal governing bodies for a period of time not to exceed 10 years.

The LERTA can be used as a way to attract developers to underused industrial-zoned sites, Cormack said.

“It’s a good match for what the site is,” he said. “I think it’s very positive, so long as they meet the needs for traffic controls.”

If the Richland Township site is developed as a distribution site, trucks would need to access the property from Route 309.

Cormack said the storage facility would bring high-quality jobs that could be good for the region.

“They contacted us way back in late November about their desire to find a site for a new facility,” he said. “They asked us to work with the township and county. The latest discussions show clear signs that they are moving in the right direction.”

The Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce also is helping the company and the Bucks County Economic Development Corp. with the endeavor, according to Cormack.

Through a partnership, the Bucks County Economic Development Corp. and Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce have a confidentiality agreement with the company, said Tara King, executive director of the Upper Bucks Chamber. While she was not able to comment on specific aspects of the project, she offered a prepared statement.

“The company is receiving assistance from the BCEDC/UBCC partnership, and we’re hoping that soon enough we’ll be able to officially announce that they’re moving into Bucks County,” King said.

In addition to the county, the Bucks County Economic Development Corp. also is in talks with the Quakertown Community School District regarding any potential tax incentives.

Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it.

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