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Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

Ferguson opening mega-center

By Shelley Grieshop
CELINA - The largest U.S. distributor of plumbing supplies is opening a giant distribution center east of the city.
Ferguson - which earns $9.7 billion a year in sales - plans to build a nearly 400,000-square-foot facility along state Route 29 at the corner of Harris Road. A timeline for construction has not been released.
Jared Ebbing, economic development director for Mercer County, said his office is excited about the news.
"I think it's a perfect fit for this area," he said.
The company has vowed to create 70 new full-time jobs at the 77-acre site along the four-lane highway where several years ago an ethanol plant was proposed and later scrubbed. The land is owned by Mercer Energy.
Ebbing said the business is a solid one. Other types of goods come and go, but materials such as pipes, valves and fittings are the "fabric of infrastructure, building blocks," he noted.
Ferguson chose Mercer County over thousands of sites in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, Ebbing said.
"We're very fortunate and very blessed that they found us and gave us the time to explain who we are as a people and how great this county is," he said. "You can't put that stuff on a billboard."
Mercer County Commissioner Jerry Laffin said Ferguson's arrival is the biggest new company development in the county since Celina Aluminum Precision Technology opened its doors nearby more than 20 years ago.
"I think it's great," he said. "We believe after we get this one going we'll be able to get more in that industrial corridor in the future."
The proposed distribution center will serve Ferguson branches and customers in about seven states, according to Christine Dwyer, the company's public relations manager.
"We are very excited about the new partnership as well. Mercer County sounds like a lovely place," she said.
Ferguson is North America's leading supplier of construction-related products and services, such as plumbing supplies, heating and cooling equipment, fireplaces and appliances, lighting, tools and fire protection equipment. The company's CEO is Frank W. Roach.
Ferguson is owned by Wolseley of Newport, Va., and has 11 other distribution centers across the country; the closest are in Virginia and Iowa. It also boasts 300 showrooms in the U.S.
Ferguson employs about 18,000 associates in nearly 1,300 locations in North and Central America. According to the company's profile, it's ranked the third-largest distributor of heating and cooling equipment and second largest within the waterworks industry.
Last fall county commissioners approved a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to extend water and sewer service from Celina to Harris Road and improve roadways under the name Project Ventilate. The infrastructure project is estimated to cost $1,150,000.
Additional funds for the infrastructure project will come from an Ohio Department of Transportation grant ($150,000), a state roadwork grant ($200,000), the county's economic development agency ($300,000) and a revolving loan.
Ebbing said Ferguson's commitment to the area isn't just a win for Mercer County.
"It's a win for the region and the state," he said.
He plans on helping the company grow for years to come in the same way his office supports all existing businesses, he said.
"That includes helping them find employees through our (online) Hometown Opportunity program," Ebbing said. "They'll need logistics people, distributors, accountants ... a wide variety of skilled workers."
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