"This is a big night for Antrim Township," Mike Ross, president of Franklin County Area Development Corp., said Tuesday as township supervisors and members of the planning commission heard about plans for a fulfillment center that would create 2,000 jobs and a cold storage facility with about 80 jobs.
Variances for both projects are being sought to the 50-foot height limit in the township industrial zone from the zoning hearing board, which will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, in the township meeting room.
The fulfillment center is proposed along Milnor Road East in the Antrim Commons Business Park off U.S. 11 south of Greencastle near Exit 3 of Interstate 81. A variance is needed for the warehouse, with a maximum height of 85 feet.
U.S. Cold Storage wants to build at a site off Hykes Road near Greenmount Road just north of State Line. A variance is needed for a 125-foot refrigeration tower that is part of its automated system.
Eric Watts of NorthPoint Development, said he cannot disclose the name of the company for which the Antrim Commons Business Park is the preferred location for a state-of-the art fulfillment facility.
"It's highly automated, but still a ton of jobs," Watts explained. He said the area offers "an incredibly strong labor force for this user."
With construction costs estimated at $175 million and automation around $100 million, the fulfillment center is a "massive, massive undertaking," Ross said. At more than 1.9 million square feet, it would probably be the largest facility in Franklin County, providing significant tax revenues, he said.
"It's a huge capital investment so you know the tenant is going to be there a long time," Watts said.
The initial workforce of 1,200 would put it in the top five employers in Franklin County, according to Ross.
"This tracks with the master plan NorthPoint laid out," Ross added.
Based in Missouri, NorthPoint Development has real estate interests across the United States, including a number of other locations in Pennsylvania. It announced plans for warehouse development in Antrim Commons Business Park in 2017.
Watts said it would be ideal to break ground in the late third quarter or the fourth quarter of this year, with completion of the fulfillment center in December 2021.
United States Cold Storage
United States Cold Storage, incorporated in 1899, currently has 39 facilities in the United States and is headquartered in Camden, N.J.
On its website, the company says it has a commitment to be the "Best in Cold" as it works with the frozen and refrigerated food industry.
Tim Herm, area director for the northeast region, used Kellogg's frozen waffles as an example.
The waffles would be shipped to and housed at U.S. Cold Storage awaiting delivery to grocery stores and other food service businesses.
The Antrim Township site would complement existing facilities in Pennsylvania, which include Bethlehem, Hazleton and Quakertown.
The 380,000-square-foot facility would be built in two phases on the 43-acre property and, at full capacity, would employ 80 to 84 people, with technical jobs paying $60,000 to $80,000.
Asked by Supervisor Fred Young whether employees would be from the area or brought in from elsewhere, Herm said the workers would be local residents trained by a team of "road warriors" from other sites.
"U.S. Cold Storage likes to have nice-looking properties," Mike Jeitner of Bohler Engineering said, as he explained green space and other features on the site plan.
He added there will be a solar array to help power the operation and U.S. Cold Storage is looking for LED certification for the building.
The land investment is $40 to $48 million, the "personal property" investment, including building and automated systems, is upwards of $39 million and the payroll would be $3.6 to $5.7 million a year, according to Kellie McGowan, the attorney representing U.S. Cold Storage.
"Except for height, it complies with zoning. The site is ideal," she said.
She explained the height is needed to accommodate a modern, automated facility.
She added U.S. Cold Storage is "looking at a long-term investment."
"This is the best use for this property," Ross told supervisors. "This is a big project under normal circumstances, with with COVID it could not have come at a better time."
The location has access to both road and rail and "it's hard to find properties that fit the need like this site," Herm said.
Asked when he would like to see the facility open, Herm said, "Last year."
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The Local Economic Redevelopment Tax Assistance program available in the Greencastle-Antrim School District and Antrim Township is a critical component of bringing developments to the area, according to Ross.
"This is the whole purpose of LERTA," Ross said. The tax incentive program is designed to foster growth and development.
The first LERTA was put in place in 2012 to encourage economic development near the end of the recession and compete with incentives offered by Maryland and West Virginia.
It was renewed in 2019 with property tax payments of 5 percent the first year, 15 the second, 25 the third, 35 the fourth, 45 the fifth, 55 the sixth, 65 the seventh, 75 the eighth and 85 the ninth, with the business paying 100 percent by the 10th year.
That's money that will be applied to the future tax base and "is the shot in the arm the school district needs,"Ross said.
He estimated in the first year even with the tax break the district could get $100,000 for the fulfillment center, eventually receiving "well over $1 million a year."