State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

With state support, trendy retailer opens Lancaster County facility

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 4, 2015 2:54 PM

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

It's not always easy being a business in Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters has built a reputation as a purveyor of all things hip, but chief logistics officer Ken McKinney remembers more modest times -- like when his company's merchandise was chewed up by a neighborhood goat in Chester County.

"We leased a barn for our Anthropologie furniture line, and so he was eating our rugs," said McKinney.

The company's newest Lancaster County warehouse is still flanked by farmland (indeed, it used to be farmland), but it looks relatively goat-proof, with a cavernous main floor and maze of shelves and conveyor belts overhead.

Dozens of people called "pickers" and "packers" have already begun training to retrieve and ship out the items Urban's regional customers buy online. Such jobs, paying at least $11 an hour, make this kind of development a prize for government officials. The center received a $3 million state grant and a 10-year holiday on certain state and local taxes through the state's Keystone Opportunity Zone program.

McKinney said the center employs between 250 and 300 people now, but executives have promised 500 jobs as business ramps up. A little over half of those employees, McKinney said, would either pick or pack.

At the center's opening ceremony Thursday morning, Governor Tom Wolf applauded Urban Outfitters for setting the conveyor belts in motion.

"This is a really important thing. This is going to generate a lot of jobs for Pennsylvanians," said Wolf. "It reflects the strengths that Pennsylvania has as a place to do business, and I think we want that."

Published in State House Sound Bites

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