Food warehouse, coffee plant, online firm highlights of Prince George’s tour -- Gazette.Net



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A Landover warehouse that distributes food to military bases is in line for a $200,000 matching grant from the county that would help it expand and double its workforce.

Nash Finch of Edina, Minn., relocated to the 226,000-square-foot center in June from a 100,000-square-foot site in Jessup. to 226,000 square feet in Landover in late June. The company wants to expand into refrigerated goods. The county’s grant, from its new $50 million Economic Development Incentive Fund, would match a state grant.

The warehouse was one of the highlights of a county economic development bus tour Oct. 18, part of the Maryland Economic Development Association’s Economic Development Week that showcased Prince George’s County’s economic development successes — from the Nash Finch warehouse to an online education company and a coffee processing plant.

Nash Finch plans a $12 million expansion that would help boost its workforce from 67 employees to 136 by 2016, Sam Tramontana, senior director of regional operations for Nash Finch, told officials during the tour.

Tramontana lauded the county for its assistance in moving the distribution center from Jessup, saying it was "one of the quickest processes we've ever seen."

Nash Finch had been seeking a new location about a year ago and had been considering Harford or Cecil counties, said David Iannucci, assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development and public infrastructure for the county.

During an impromptu announcement on the tour bus, Iannucci emphasized how hard county officials worked to bring Nash Finch to Prince George’s.

Nash Finch's new home at 6304 Sheriff Road had been part of a Giant Food complex and had been vacant for more than a decade.

The county council approves or rejects applications for the new incentive loans.

"This is a good use of the Economic Development Incentive Fund because the facility has been vacant for a while, is inside the Beltway and close to a Metro station. It can spur other economic development projects," said County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) during the visit.

The county’s ability to match state funding this way is unprecedented, Iannucci said.

Nash Finch houses more than 701,000 cases of grocery goods at the Landover facility, comprising more than 10,000 types of items, said Fred Wood, operations manager for the facility.

Coffee plant growing

County officials also toured the Eight O’Clock Coffee processing plant in Landover. Almost every division of the economic development corporation has helped the company, said Larry Hentz, business development specialist for the corporation.

The plant, a subsidiary of Tata Global Beverages of Mumbai, India, employs 117 people, with 70 percent living in the county, said Joseph Navin, vice president of operations in the U.S. The company has a 20-year lease for 120,000 square feet and generates $225 million in sales annually. Eight O’Clock has been in the county since 1989 and can store more than 1 million pounds of coffee at its facility, said Margaret Campbell, director of plant operations.

Eight O’Clock is preparing for more than $10 million in capital improvements to update its technology.

The growing popularity of coffee has created an equilibrium of supply and demand in the industry, said Jason Cortellini, head of the coffee center of excellence at Eight O’Clock.

About 75 of the company’s coffee imports come through the Port of Baltimore, Navin said. He said that he and other importers who use the port expect to see sales volumes rise with the widening of the Panama Canal.

2tor to 2U

County officials also were particularly interested in offering workforce recruiting services to 2U, a Landover company that partners with universities to provide online education services.

2U, which moved from New York in February and recently changed its name from 2tor, employs 318 people in Landover at an average full-time salary of $68,380. It expects to grow to 800 workers by the end of 2014. The company occupies 50,000 square feet and is quick to “gobble up” new space as it becomes available, said Denis Ryan, vice president of compliance.

Although 2U officials consider its location as ideal for recruiting employees from Washington and Baltimore in addition to the county, Prince George’s plans to work with the company to hire more county residents, said Gwen McCall, president and CEO of the economic development corporation.

“We have the people here,” McCall said.

2U’s growth is driven by its goal of adding two or three new programs each year with 75 new employees per program, Ryan said.

The county also received updates on a $100 million class A office building development under way at the Steeplechase Business Park and at the development at the Ritchie Station, both in Capitol Heights.

The tour concluded with a tour of public relations firm Vocus’ sprawling 93,000-square-foot campus in Beltsville, which is modeled after a town.

lrobbins@gazette.net