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Massive FedEx facility now an international archetype

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PHOTO/STEVE WILLIAMS, FLIGHT QUEST AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY
FedEx Ground in Allen Township: Other regions in North America want to know how the Lehigh Valley landed the project that is expected to bring at least 700 jobs to the area.
PHOTO/STEVE WILLIAMS, FLIGHT QUEST AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY FedEx Ground in Allen Township: Other regions in North America want to know how the Lehigh Valley landed the project that is expected to bring at least 700 jobs to the area.

When FedEx Ground broke ground on its major East Coast automated hub in the Greater Lehigh Valley last year, the project not only attracted attention from economic development officials outside the region, but from those outside the nation as well.

That’s what occurred when Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., one of several stakeholders in the project, attended an economic development forum in Toronto, Canada, to discuss the project.

The event demonstrated how the Greater Lehigh Valley has become an example for other areas to model their efforts.

Don Cunningham, president and CEO of LVEDC, said he attended I.CON ’17, an event hosted last month by NAIOP, The Commercial Real Estate Development Association. The FedEx Ground project was one of four that were discussed as a model for how to get these types of big industrial projects accomplished.

Joseph Fitzpatrick, founder and shareholder of Fitzpatrick, Lentz & Bubba in Upper Saucon Township, joined Cunningham on the trip along with Clark Machemer, senior vice president and regional development officer for The Rockefeller Group’s New Jersey and Pennsylvania Group. Rockefeller bought the land in Allen Township for the FedEx facility from the Lehigh Valley International Airport.

Fitzpatrick and Machemer also were key partners in getting the project developed.

Since it was introduced several years ago, the FedEx project has faced fierce opposition, with many local residents and officials, including those in neighboring Hanover Township, Lehigh County, voicing concerns over the traffic impact.

“Clearly it wasn’t without its opposition from some folks,” Cunningham said. “The road improvements should improve the situation.”

700 TO 3,000 EMPLOYEES

FedEx Ground is spending $330 million on the massive operation, an investment that includes road improvements and package-processing equipment.

The 800,000-square-foot FedEx Ground project under construction off Willowbrook Road is expected to employ 700 upon opening in late August 2018.

At full build-out, the facility could employ more than 3,000 and expand to 1.1 million square feet. About 100 of those 700 employees would be transferred from existing facilities.

PRIVATE-PUBLIC PARTNERSHIP

Cunningham said the support of state government, including senators such as Lisa Boscola and the state Department of Transportation to get funds for off-site road improvements, helped the project attain approval from local government.

That’s the crux of how the project came together, with private sector officials partnering with economic development professionals on the local and state level and bringing in state legislators vested in the project’s success because of its economic impact.

“It will be FedEx’s largest facility in the U.S.,” Cunningham said. “The underpinnings of it are that the Lehigh Valley has emerged as this large industrial inland empire.”

‘HUGE PLAYER’

The past few years, the region has ended up with a significant amount of e-commerce related development and related manufacturing.

Now that FedEx Ground will be up and running next year, LVEDC already has had significant talks with retailers interested in the region, Cunningham said.

“FedEx Ground is a huge player in that process,” Cunningham said. “It will be a huge player in direct-to-consumer retail.”

LOCATION, POPULATION

At one point last year, FedEx Ground said it was considering a site in South Bethlehem off Route 412 for its mega hub and potentially scrapping its plans for locating near the airport.

It chose Allen Township, with FedEx Ground spokesman David Westrick saying that location and population played key roles in determining the site.

“It’s an area with enough property for what we want to build,” he said. “The plans haven’t changed at all.”

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Rich May 23, 2017 8:54 am

When automation from robots comes and it will be here sooner than you think....those 3000 jobs are going to vanish like snow in April. And with those 3000 jobs that never materialize so will the local 1% income tax. All we will get are automated trucks destroying the roads and huge, air pollution, ugly behemoth buildings that in the future will have no value all while we plow under good farm land.

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