If Gov. Tom Wolf wanted to see his campaign promises in action, he came to the right place Thursday morning, said Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne.
Jobs that pay? “You’re looking at them,” Hayne said at the grand opening for Urban Outfitters’ massive e-commerce fulfillment center in rural Salisbury Township just outside Gap on Route 30.
The Philadelphia-headquartered retail store chain sells fashion apparel, footwear and accessories targeted at young adults aged 18 to 28.
The Gap site will ramp up this summer and fall, moving from an initial staffing of 150 people to 500. There will be seasonal hiring boosts, and the facility could eventually employ 1,000 to 1,500, officials said.
Starting wages are $11.50 an hour, director of fulfillment Carl Carbonell said.
The e-fulfillment center also exemplifies “schools that teach” and “government that works,” Wolf’s other two priorities, Hayne said.
Thanks to the fulfillment center, more tax dollars will flow to the Pequea Valley School District, he said.
As for governance, “This has got to be the poster child” for effective partnership between government and the private sector, Hayne said.
“This is an indication that we can get it right,” he said. “I would love to come to more of these things.”
Wolf, state legislators, the three county commissioners, local officials and numerous Urban Outfitters executives attended the grand opening.
Around 11 a.m., Wolf and Hayne pushed a button officially activating the site.
With some loud beeping and a clatter, the conveyor system came to life and large plastic yellow bins began moving through the enormous facility.
The facility’s new hires looked on, standing behind the rows of folding chairs set out for the government and corporate guests.
The building’s footprint is roughly 1 million square feet. Including mezzanines, the total floor area is nearly 1.6 million square feet, said officials from Urban Outfitters, which clocked a little over $3 billion in sales last year.
The e-commerce fulfillment center will ship Urban Outfitters, Free People and Anthropologie brand merchandise.
It will serve 65 percent to 70 percent of the company’s online customers, delivering product to most of them within one to three days of their order, director of distribution Ken McKinney said.
It also will serve wholesale customers and help replenish retail stores, he said.
“It’s a multi-purpose facility,” he said.
The new systems are still in the testing stage. Orders will begin shipping June 22, director of fulfillment Carl Carbonell said.
The plan to build the $100 million+ e-commerce fulfillment center was unveiled in fall 2013. It was announced in conjunction with a major expansion of Urban Outfitters’ headquarters in the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
To bring the center to Lancaster County, state and local officials agreed to create a Keystone Opportunity Zone.
The KOZ exempts the facility for 10 years from local property taxes and certain state taxes. Urban Outfitters agreed to pay property taxes on 110 percent of the site’s land value, not including the building, according to Salisbury Township Supervisor Les Houck.
A state grant helped fund the solar array on the building’s roof.
The high-tech Gap project represents a consolidation of Urban Outfitters’ logistics. The company is idling an e-commerce center in South Carolina, which employed nearly 500 people, and shifting that operation here.
The new center sits across the street from a 219,000-square-foot distribution center that Urban Outfitters opened in 1996. It ships merchandise to the company’s retail outlets and employs 120 people.
Urban Outfitters has been in this part of Pennsylvania for 25 years, McKinney said.
“I’d say we’re pretty committed to sticking around,” he said.