FedEx celebrates new distribution center in Sparrows Point

FedEx has been shipping and sorting packages at its new Sparrows Point center for two months, but celebrated the facility’s opening by having officials cut a ceremonial orange ribbon on Wednesday.

The freight shipping outfit was the first major company to agree to open a facility at Tradepoint Atlantic, a redevelopment project at the site of a former steel mill. Officials said Wednesday that FedEx will be the first of many tenants at the site.

“It will forever mark a turning point in the rebirth of this property,” said Eric Gilbert, chief development officer for Tradepoint Atlantic.

FedEx began the process of opening the Sparrows Point facility in late 2014, just months after the company now known as Tradepoint Atlantic bought the shuttered steel mill. FedEx has been followed by other companies, including Under Armour, which is building an e-commerce fulfillment center, and Pasha Automotive, which imports cars. Amazon is considering opening a distribution warehouse at Tradepoint, too.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said Wednesday that it was painful to realize that thousands of jobs were lost when the steel mill, then owned by RG Steel, closed for good in 2012.

He convened a working group that proposed a blueprint for future development at the mill property, one that’s being largely followed by Tradepoint Atlantic.

“We thank you for embracing your vision and leading us to this vibrant, 21st-century jobs center,” said Kamenetz, a Democrat. “FedEx: Thank you for investing here. You found the right place, the right workers and the right business community for success.”

FedEx employs about 180 package handlers and about 70 managers and administrative workers at Sparrows Point. The company also has about 150 contracted drivers.

The 307,000-square-foot facility has room to expand. For example, of 77 truck bays for outgoing packages, only 24 are being used now.

FedEx has the capability of sorting 15,000 packages per hour at Sparrows Point — both packages coming in and going out for delivery.

Packages are moved off trucks onto conveyor belts, where they are automatically weighed and scanned for the address, then sent down chutes headed to outbound trucks. A package can move through the facility in mere minutes.

Gov. Larry Hogan said FedEx represents the first step in a transformation of an important property.

“I believe FedEx Ground is paving the way for much more success here,” the Republican governor said.

The prospect of celebrating hundreds of new jobs drew scores of politicians to the event, including several who represent the area: Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, County Councilman Todd Crandell, state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling, Del. Robin Grammer, Del. Bob Long and Del. Ric Metzgar.

pwood@baltsun.com

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