Companies are continuing to see the value of Greater Hazleton for their business, with several building new facilities or expanding in the recent months. These companies have cited factors such as the area’s workforce and easy access to major highways, airports and ports as pivotal in their decision to locate in the Hazleton area.
American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. is constructing a 1-million-square-foot distribution center on a 128-acre parcel of land in Humboldt Industrial Park. AEO began construction this summer on the $160 million facility, which will ship items directly to consumers. When the new building is completed, it will be the largest industrial building in Greater Hazleton.
American Eagle Outfitters is a leading specialty retailer that targets younger consumers. The company is based in Pennsylvania, with headquarters near Pittsburgh. CEO Robert Hanson said, “Due to the growth of American Eagle Outfitters, we are delighted to launch this new distribution center that will bring additional jobs to the Pennsylvania community. We are pleased that AEO will have a greater presence in the Commonwealth.”
CAN DO Vice President of Sales and Marketing Joseph Lettiere said AEO was looking for a location that not only offers good access to market, but also a site large enough to meet its needs that was ready for development. Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services purchased the land along Oak Ridge Road and prepared the parcel as part of its “Ready to Go” program. The program offers sites that are ready for construction by having some or most of the permitting in place, as well as grading completed and utilities established at the site.
Tech Packaging, Inc. is also constructing a new building, which is set to open next spring in Humboldt Industrial Park. The 223,200-square-foot facility will handle approximately $15 million in inventory a year for the company, which is based in Jacksonville, Fla.
Tech Packaging President Bob Janes, who founded the company, said Greater Hazleton was an excellent site for his company’s expansion. “We chose the area in large part because of its logistics, including the proximity to Interstates 81 and 80. Since our company has been experiencing such a large volume of growth, we wanted a bigger location and saw the site in Humboldt Industrial Park as perfect for our needs. The size of this building will be advantageous for our company and lead to cost savings for our customers,” he said.
Tech Packaging provides a variety of packaging services including shrink wrapping, over wrapping, blister packs and clamshells, as well as repacking, relabeling and date coding services. The company’s corporate clients include PepsiCo, Frito Lay, Del Monte, Unilever, Ocean Spray and Kellogg’s.
Lettiere noted the continuing growth of the food-processing sector in Greater Hazleton. “The Hazleton area’s strategic location and dedicated workforce will undoubtedly meet Tech Packaging’s expectations and be conducive to successfully providing service to its customers, including many of the world’s largest food manufacturers,” he said.
Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services is developing the new building, which will be the 13th constructed by Mericle in Humboldt Industrial Park. Mericle Vice President Bob Besecker said Tech Packaging’s site, like American Eagle Outfitters’ site, is part of Mericle’s Ready to Go program. “Since our excavation team is already working in Humboldt on other projects, we are able to quickly transition to the Tech Packaging site and meet their deadline to have their building ready for occupancy by next March,” he said, adding that the Tech Packaging project is yet another example of the importance of having sites and buildings “as ready as possible” when companies are considering locating in the area.
Tech Packaging also operates a plant in Berwick, Pa., about 20 miles from its new location, and facilities in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and Orlando, Fla.
E.S. Kluft and Company, which opened its facility on North Park Drive in Humboldt Industrial Park North just one year ago, has already experienced a growth in business. The company, which manufactures and distributes luxury mattresses, signed a lease last year with Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services for nearly 99,000 square feet.
“Our additional business and sales required us to use even more space and add more associates,” General Manager Steve Boucher said. “Prior to opening our Hazleton facility, we had been handling shipping and warehousing from California. Having a manufacturing facility on the East Coast, only hours away from many of our customers, gives them and us much more flexibility and has increased our business.”
E.S. Kluft, based in California, makes Aireloom and Kluft mattresses and distributes its products to customers from all over the Northeast, Midwest and South. Boucher said Greater Hazleton is an excellent location for E.S. Kluft and the access to its major market is a key factor in the local facility’s success. “The highway accessibility here helps with both inbound and outbound freight costs. Also, the abundance of a highly trained workforce has made it much easier to rapidly increase production without affecting quality,” Boucher said.
He described the company’s employees as “very hardworking and conscientious,” saying, “We have a very stable workforce that may come from a strong sense of community and family that I see in many of our associates. Our employees are some of the best people I have ever worked with.”
Progressive Converting (Pro-Con) has also expanded its space in the Hazleton area, leasing more than 212,000 square feet in 1104 North Park Drive, the same building occupied by E.S. Kluft and PECO Pallet. The company also operates a separate 230,000-square-foot converting, warehousing and distribution facility in Humboldt that it will continue to operate.
The company, which offers paper converting, warehousing and distribution services, expanded because of the increase in its East Coast business. Mike Kersten, vice president of sales, said, “Humboldt Industrial Park is in close proximity to both Interstates 80 and 81. This geographic location allows the capability of cost-effective services to the entire East Coast. We can provide next-day service to most markets.”
Pro-Con is headquartered in Appleton, Wis., and also has industrial facilities in Minnesota, Virginia, and California.
Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services constructed 1104 North Park Drive several years ago on speculation. Vice President Bob Besecker said, “Because the building was ready at the right time, we were able to accommodate three companies. We plan to continue to prepare Ready to Go Sites and construct new buildings on speculation so that we continue to meet the needs of excellent companies like Pro-Con.”
Besecker thanked CAN DO Vice President of Sales and Marketing Joseph Lettiere for the site selection assistance he provided to Pro-Con during the company’s search for space.
Lettiere said the new companies and expansions in Humboldt reaffirm the park’s status as one of the premier business locations along the I-81 corridor. “In a little more than a year, Pro-Con, E.S. Kluft, Tech Packaging, American Eagle and PECO Pallet have made major investments in Humboldt Industrial Park and are together occupying about 2 million square feet of industrial space,” he said.