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Tradepoint Atlantic says pandemic isn’t slowing growth at the Baltimore County distribution hub

The Tradepoint Atlantic logo adorns a water tower on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel mill in Sparrows Point.
The Tradepoint Atlantic logo adorns a water tower on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel mill in Sparrows Point. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

A Tradepoint Atlantic executive said he’s confident about the distribution hub’s ability to operate safely — and continue to expand — amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The pandemic has tested and exposed weaknesses in national supply chains, said Aaron Tomarchio, Tradepoint Atlantic’s senior vice president of corporate affairs during a virtual Greater Baltimore Committee Newsmaker event.

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But the virus isn’t slowing down Tradepoint’s expanding development goals, Tomarchio said. He expects the new coronavirus’ impact to supply chains may even “lead to further investments in the industrial market space to allow companies to get closer to their customers.”

The Sparrows Point redevelopment has created 8,000 jobs, and Tomarchio said the company thinks it’ll exceed its goal of providing 10,000 jobs for residents in Baltimore County and surrounding jurisdictions. Amazon, for instance, is slated to open a second distribution center on site during this year’s holiday season.

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Tomarchio credited the leadership of state and local officials for providing “stability to the market” for Tradepoint’s ability to continue construction and tenant operations.

“From a Tradepoint Atlantic perspective, we have been moving forward pretty much unimpeded as a result of COVID,” Tomarchio said. “Our construction operations have continued throughout the process so we can meet the deadlines that our tenants have put forward.”

Tradepoint Atlantic is a 3,300-acre logistics center on a peninsula in southeastern Baltimore County that housed a steel mill that closed in 2012. Tradepoint has built 8 million square feet of facilities for distribution, warehousing and industrial needs, and Tomarchio said it’s planning for an additional 7 million to 8 million square feet of development.

More than 20 companies are tenants at Tradepoint, including Royal Farms, which is slated to open a convenience store on site on Friday. Distribution hubs for Floor Decor and Home Depot have recently started operations, as well, Tomarchio said.

The Royal Farms store will be located in what Tradepoint envisions as the “retail sector” serving 10,000 on-site employees and the surrounding communities, Tomarchio said. He shared renderings of a retail and mixed-use development plan called “The Shoppes at Tradepoint Atlantic” that would be formed along the frontage of Bethlehem Boulevard and Interstate 695.

Those renderings showed plans for hotels, grocers and restaurants. The company, Tomarchio added, is also discussing a possible daycare facility for on-site employees.

“Together, we’re re-envisioning our steel mill into a 21st-century logistics hub and bringing back jobs that were lost and bringing back investment to our region,” Tomarchio said.

Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, pressed for information about the challenges ahead for Tradepoint. Tomarchio said public transportation to the site continues to be “one of our core challenges.” Tomarchio thanked the Maryland Transit Administration for rolling out a bus route in 2018, but he stressed “there’s more we can do to help better connect everybody throughout the region.”

The company is also keeping an eye on conversations regarding international trade and tariffs, Tomarchio said, because that impacts some of the cargo that flows through Tradepoint.

Fry said Tradepoint appears to be in a good position for growth due to its access to deepwater berths, rails, and highways. He agreed with Tomarchio’s assertion the region will continue to attract businesses for supply chain management, thanks in part to Tradepoint, the Port of Baltimore, and their proximity to East Coast markets.

“I think Tradepoint Atlantic is going to prove to be a major economic and employment hub for the Baltimore region as a whole, and I think it is exciting to see a transformation from what was a heavy industrial site to a modern-day global logistics center,” Fry said.

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