Wholesale supplier picks Lehigh County

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With more than 75 locations in eight states in the U.S. Northeast, one company is looking to open its first Pennsylvania site in the Greater Lehigh Valley.

F.W. Webb Co., a wholesale supplier of heating, cooling and industrial products, is renovating an old building in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, near Lehigh Valley International Airport and converting it into its first warehouse in Pennsylvania.

An opening is scheduled on May 7 for the $4.5 million project, according to Peter Dwyer, general manager for F.W. Webb’s propane and natural gas division. Matt Bliven will be the new facility’s store manager.

“We are surrounded by very good competitors,” Dwyer said. “We have been doing business down in Pennsylvania [via sales] for the last 10 years or so.”

Though weather may cause a shift in the May 7 opening date, the company is looking to hire delivery workers, warehouse workers, sales people and customer service representatives, Dwyer said. By the end of 2015, the company expects to hire about 20 people once the showroom is open.

“We are impressed by the recovery efforts that Pennsylvania is seeing,” Dwyer said. “We’ve seen a trend, a shift to high-efficiency products.”

F.W. Webb was looking for a place in Pennsylvania that would allow it to send its own trucks to propane dealers, Dwyer said.

“We saw the growth potential in Allentown,” Dwyer said. The facility, at 1665 E. Race St., has an Allentown mailing address. “Pennsylvania has a big growth arc right now. The economy is growing quickly in Pennsylvania.”

The early focus for this location will be serving the residential and light commercial markets.

F.W. Webb will determine future markets based on customer demand, Dwyer said.

Propane and natural gas, plumbing, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration are the disciplines that the company initially will bring to the region.

F.W. Webb is renovating the 40,000-square-foot building on East Race Street; a mezzanine will be added to create an additional 24,000 square feet of space.

About 12,000 square feet will be designed as an open concept counter where contractors have the option to go through the warehouse and select items they need or have F.W. Webb employees retrieve them, Dwyer said. Contractors also have the option of ordering items on the company’s online service and have them ready for pickup.

All inventory in the warehouse will have barcodes and offer customers an advanced replenishment system through the company’s online ordering system, Dwyer said.

“We are committed to a large amount of inventory,” he said. “Initially, we will have two trucks that run locally. We have tractor-trailers that replenish all our locations.”

The company’s central distribution facility is in Amherst, N.H., said Alicia Criniti, director of marketing. The company has 22 tractor-trailers that travel 30,000 miles across the Northeast each week, restocking product at F.W. Webb’s wholesale locations.

The new warehouse also will have space for a training room and invite contractors and trade organizations to participate.

In this location, F.W. Webb will create a retail showroom business which operates under the brand name Frank Webb’s Bath Center, Criniti said. The showroom will be a resource for contractors doing remodeling projects, particularly on homes, she added.

Construction for the 8,000-square-foot showroom will begin in 2015, Dwyer said.

“We are waiting because we don’t want to come in and make assumptions about what the contractors are looking for,” Dwyer said.

F.W. Webb has 13 market disciplines and most cut across the residential, commercial, industrial and institutional fields, Criniti said. Some only focus in the commercial, industrial and institutional space.

A large segment of the business caters to industrial and institutional clients who are building large facilities such as hospitals and manufacturing sites, she said.

J.M. Coull Inc., based in Maynard, Mass., is the general contractor for the Lehigh County facility.

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. Brian also has a strong interest in health and fitness. He works part-time as a personal trainer at Steel Fitness Riverport in Bethlehem and earned his personal fitness trainer certification from World Instructor Training Schools. He loves to run and will be competing in his first half-marathon on Nov. 23 to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

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