New site in W.Va. to get 132 Md. jobs


Hardware distributor Orgill Inc. is closing its mid-Atlantic distribution center in Frederick and is moving 132 jobs to a new facility in Martinsburg, W.Va.

The company's new 500,000-square-foot Martinsburg facility is expected to open next month, a company spokesman said yesterday.

Memphis, Tenn.-based Orgill, the largest independent hardware distributor in the country with 1999 sales of $552 million, obtained the center in 1998 when it bought the former Frederick Trading Co. in hopes of gaining access to its 1,200 accounts in the Northeast, where Orgill was hoping to expand.

Frederick Trading, then the nation's 12th-largest hardware distributor, began courting buyers under pressure from investors, who were concerned about the company's declining sales. Frederick Trading posted 1997 sales of $81.8 million, down nearly 6 percent from the previous year.

"The difficulty was that the facility is too small," said Bill Fondren, president of Orgill, about the decision to leave Frederick.

The company picked Martinsburg, about 45 miles from Frederick, because of its proximity to major mid-Atlantic markets.

Orgill could not say how many employees would be laid off.

Fondren said there is a "safety net" for Frederick employees who will lose their jobs as a result of the move, but he declined to provide details. Employees have been kept abreast of Orgill's plans throughout the transition. "We've held nothing back," he said.

In 30 states

Orgill is a 153-year-old privately held company with 1,300 employees and accounts in 30 states and 50 countries.

Its primary business is supplying independent hardware stores and lumber yards in the increasingly consolidated home improvement business.

Before the 1950s, there were an estimated 500 to 600 distribution companies supplying the business. Today, there are fewer than 50.

Orgill has been among the aggressors, completing more than a dozen acquisitions in the past 30 years.

The company has fueled its growth over the past 15 years by providing its retail customers with everything from marketing and advertising help to online ordering services and custom Web page design.

Three other centers

In addition to the Frederick facility, Orgill has distribution centers in Vandalia, Ill.; Memphis; and Tifton, Ga.

The Martinsburg distribution center will employ about 215 when it opens, though that number could eventually climb to more than 300.

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