Saks has plans for distribution center in Aberdeen COMING . . .


A story in yesterday's editions about Saks Fifth Avenue

possibly opening a distribution center in Aberdeen incorrectly identified James Fielder. He is deputy director of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. James T. Brady is the director.

The Sun regrets the error.

Saks Fifth Avenue, the tony department store looking to expand into the Southeast, is negotiating to open a distribution center on U.S. 40 in Aberdeen.

If all goes as planned, the deal could bring 450 new jobs to Harford County within two years.

Saks wants to open a 470,000-square-foot distribution center in Hickory Ridge Industrial Park on U.S. 40 next to the Frito-Lay Co. plant.

When the center and office building are completed in 1996, it will bring 250 jobs, with 200 more expected to be added in 1997.

Harford officials had appeared before the state's Legislative Policy Committee requesting that it provide money from the Sunny Day Fund for the center.

They were requesting $2.5 million in loans and a $500,000 grant from the fund, which is used to entice economic development to Maryland.

James Fielder, Maryland's director of economic development, described the deal with Saks as 95 to 98 percent complete and said he expected it to conclude in about 30 days.

"But there are still some steps to go," said Mr. Fielder.

The legislative committee is expected to approve the loan and grant with some conditions.

Mr. Fielder said legislators want a better sense of what percentage of jobs would be full-time and what percentage would be part-time.

About one-third of the jobs, which will pay about $8 an hour, will be part-time, seasonal work, averaging 20 hours a week, according to a letter written to the legislative committee by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

The new distribution center is expected to cost between $27 million and $36 million, according to the letter.

The center will consolidate the 70-year-old chain's Middle Atlantic region distribution facilities and replace an aging facility in New York City, according to the letter.

However, the letter said Saks would not transfer any of its New York employees to Maryland.

New York-based Saks has 46 stores, including one in the mall at Owings Mills, and nine discount stores nationwide.

The privately owned company plans to open an additional 19 stores by 1997, particularly in the Carolinas, according to the letter.

Aberdeen Mayor Chuck Boutin said he had been active in wooing Saks to the eastern Harford town, best known for the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground.

"I think Saks considered a number of other locations but frankly, we pitched Aberdeen as a great place to live and work. And we need the jobs, and our labor circumstances certainly helped make our package attractive," Mr. Boutin said.

He said he called Saks officials and told them Aberdeen, which has 15,000 residents, would do whatever it could to cement the deal.

"I offered to come to New York and take them to Tavern on the Green for lunch if that would help," he said.

Over five years, the city of Aberdeen will contribute $1.5 million in tax credits and the county will provide $625,000, Mr. Boutin said.

Water and sewer were installed at the site, which has an "excellent geographic location," he said.

Frito-Lay Co., Sunbeam Plastics and McCormick & Co. have opened distribution centers in Harford because of its proximity to rail lines, the port of Baltimore, U.S. 40, Interstate 95, Baltimore-Washington International and Philadelphia International airports.

Mr. Boutin said Aberdeen is wooing other corporations but declined to say who they are.

He said Aberdeen officials are making a video to send prospective companies highlighting the town's quality of life and "the fact that you can still buy a home here for a reasonable amount of money."

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