Nearly two years ago, officials from FedEx Ground stuck shovels in the ground on a patch of land on a 260-acre site in Allen Township to mark the start of construction on its massive package-handling facility.
As the company nears completion on its $330 million East Coast hub in about six months, it is looking to employ up to 700 when it opens in September at 1000 Willowbrook Road.
Just north of Lehigh Valley International Airport, the project offers room to grow, with employment potentially reaching more than 3,000 workers at full build-out, with an expansion from 800,000 square feet to 1.1 million square feet. The land offers space to expand the facility.
Physical construction is complete, said David Westrick, spokesperson for FedEx Ground. Now, the focus is on installing the material-handling system, which includes conveyor belts and scanners, throughout the building, and the potential to produce 75,000 packages per hour.
The $330 million investment in Allen Township includes road improvements and package-processing equipment.
At the groundbreaking ceremony in August 2016, a top official from FedEx Ground said the company continues to see steady growth in e-commerce and invested $1.6 billion in infrastructure for these types of facilities.
“There’s so much growth on the East Coast that we need these types of buildings,” Scott Burns, vice president of regional operations for the Eastern Region of FedEx Ground in Moon Township in suburban Pittsburgh, has said. “The growth is going to continue with e-commerce.”
The opening signals more than jobs. It raises the image of the Greater Lehigh Valley and fuels even more growth by conveying to businesses and consumers that it’s a thriving region on the leading edge of e-commerce and logistics.
“Its great significance is really as a new infrastructure asset for the region,” said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.
In addition to the main 800,000-square-foot hub building, the site will include a gateway/welcome building, vehicle maintenance garage and a building used to wash trailers.
Since 2005, FedEx Ground has opened 15 new hubs featuring advanced material-handling systems and expanded or relocated more than 500 local facilities.
The network enhancements have resulted in accelerating ground service delivery by one day or more in more than two-thirds of the United States, Westrick said.
ASSET FOR THE REGION
For the business community, the completion of the FedEx Ground hub marks the beginning of a huge investment in the Greater Lehigh Valley.
“The bottom line is this is something of a mega project for the region that we’ve been working on for close to five years now,” Cunningham said.
“This is a project of significant magnitude.”
The ability for a company to move many packages more quickly at the mega hub means it will be an attractive asset for other projects.
Not only will it be a competitive advantage to the companies already here but also will also encourage other businesses to be here, he said.
“It’s really a layered-on asset to the emergence of the whole industrial growth in the Valley,” Cunningham said. “It’s almost akin to having an airport or a good infrastructure network.”
Cunningham discussed the FedEx project before an international real estate group in Toronto, giving the project global attention well beyond Lehigh and Northampton counties.
Cunningham said he already has companies talking to LVEDC about the project and seeking to learn more, noting that mega hub would be an asset even for those companies in locations 45 minutes away. The biggest challenge is finding available land for construction of industrial buildings.
The Lehigh Valley will have a premier delivery structure, Cunningham said.
Even manufacturers that are moving parts and products – any type of company involved in the transportation of goods – could benefit from the mega hub.
“It’s going to be a great asset for the region; it’s going to improve prospects,” he said. “It will be nice to have it operational.”