Big Warehouse Projects to Bring Jobs to Henry, Fulton Counties

Wednesday, August 9th 2017

Metro Atlanta’s surge in warehousing, fueled largely by e-commerce, accelerated Tuesday with a pair of moves that will bring 1,600 new jobs to south Fulton County and likely hundreds more in Henry County.

British online fashion giant ASOS said it will open an East Coast “fulfillment center” in Union City that will employ 1,600 people over the next five years.

Panattoni Development Co., meanwhile, announced it has started work on a new phase of the Lambert Farms Logistics Park about 20 miles south of the Atlanta airport, and that a large consumer brand has agreed to lease about 1 million square feet. It didn’t name the tenant.

Warehousing isn’t sexy, and jobs within the sector often are not high-paying or glamorous. But the movement of freight is often a bellwether for the economy, signaling the direction of consumer spending and business investment.

Georgia is a logistics hub for the Southeast, and the Atlanta region has seen a surge in new warehouse development and leasing. Much of it stems from the rise of online shopping.

ASOS joins the ranks of Amazon, Tory Burch, Home Chef and others in establishing new distribution centers in the metro area in recent years as merchants streamline their supply chains and seek to get products closer to consumers.

About 12.7 million square feet of industrial space was filled, or “absorbed,” in the first half of this year, and vacancy in the region’s industrial space stood at 8.4 percent, according to real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield.

That absorption level was a record, while vacancy held steady. Development is also on a precedent-setting level, the Cushman & Wakefield report said, with about 7.7 million square feet of speculative space added in the region through June this year, the report said.

Gov. Nathan Deal’s office said ASOS will spend $40 million on the new center at Majestic Airport Center IV along South Fulton Parkway.

The project was sealed during an economic development trip to England over the July 4th holiday that included Deal’s chief of staff, Chris Riley, and the state’s top recruiter, Pat Wilson, Riley said on Twitter.

Prime locations

Majestic Executive Vice President Stan Conway called the deal “validation that developing first class real estate in prime locations will continue to grow Atlanta as the premier e-commerce hub in the Southeast.”

ASOS, which specializes in apparel for young adults, sells its own branded clothing and apparel by other makers.

The Atlanta region is a rail and trucking hub, and the state boasts the ports of Savannah and Brunswick, as well as Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Atlanta, the ninth biggest U.S. metro, has the fourth-largest amount of industrial space — largely distribution centers, according to CBRE Research. E-commerce companies, retailers, food processors, grocers and others use metro Atlanta as a regional distribution point.

Brent Dorfman, ASOS’s vice president of logistics, in the release called the Atlanta area “an ideal location for us.”

“It is a vibrant and growing international city with a diverse culture,” he said. “We will use the region’s transportation network and deep pool of talent to deliver ASOS’ best-in-class service to U.S. customers.”

An ASOS spokeswoman said the facility should open in the next 12 months.

The state agreed to provide a $1.6 million grant to the company, and ASOS is also eligible for other state incentives including tax credits for each eligible new job created. If ASOS creates 1,600 eligible jobs, the tax credits could be worth $14 million over five years, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of Georgia’s incentive offerings.

New phase in Henry

In its announcement, Panattoni said it has started another phase of its Lambert Farms industrial park east of I-75 in McDonough. Lambert Farms has already landed the Tory Burch distribution center, expected to open later this year and to employ more than 150 people.

While the tenant wasn’t disclosed, people familiar with the matter said Swiss chocolatier Lindt has been scouting locations south of Atlanta for a new complex, which could include some light manufacturing.

County building permits list improvements to the site under a codename: “Project Murphy.”

A representative for Panattoni declined to name the firm. A message left for Wit Truitt, a broker with JLL who represents the project, was not immediately returned.

Lindt officials did not respond with comment before publication.

By J. Scott Trubey