History was written Aug. 5 at the groundbreaking ceremony for FedEx Ground’s $335 million packaging plant in Allen Township. It will be the largest-ever such facility FedEx will have in the United States as well as the most major development the township has seen since 1895 when Atlas Cement Company arrived.
With a backdrop of two large FedEx trucks, speakers addressed the crowd of about 100 businessmen and women. Gov. Tom Wolf, elected officials, and FedEx executives and personnel spoke on the importance of the created jobs and commerce FedEx Ground is bringing to the region.
Standing beside a thick layer of light-brown dirt brought to the site for the official groundbreaking, Wolf led a group of local- and state-elected officials and FedEx personnel in digging into the loose soil with purple-painted shovels, scooping up the ground and tossing it aside while the crowd cheered.
Scott Burns, FedEx vice president, regional operations, said construction has long been delayed, as the approval process took much more time than anticipated. Work at the 260-acre site began ahead of the groundbreaking ceremony.
“It will be two years,” Burns said, before occupancy of the 800,000-square-foot building can become operational. A September 2018 opening is planned.
Major road improvements costing $40 million will take place on Willowbrook Road, Race Street and Airport Road to handle the increased traffic — 14,000 vehicles that include 1,800 tractor trailers for the Fed-Ex project and others in the area.
“This is a really big deal for Pennsylvania, a big deal for all of us,” Wolf said, adding, “It’s an investment in an area crying out for investment. It’s always nice to have a big company like FedEx Ground come in and tell everyone what we already know. This is a great place to do business.”
Wolf said it was money well spent — $7 million in state grants and funding for the road-widening projects, an investment in job creation and economic benefits.
State Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-18th, said it was important to cross the aisle in a bipartisan manner to get the state funding needed for the project to proceed.
U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent, R-15th, said the FedEx project shows how the Lehigh Valley is the center of the Northeast.
“It’s a good indication how bright our business and development future is,” he said. “There is more to come.”
Allen Township Board of Supervisors Chairman Bruce Frack, Vice Chairman Dale Hassler, Supervisor Larry Oberly, township Manager Ilene Eckhart and planning commission members were represented.
The planning commission held a series of public hearings on the proposed FedEx Ground proposal, recommending the board of supervisors approve the huge project with conditions, which then took place.
Oberly took the stage, representing the board of supervisors and the township.
“This is the largest business to come to Allen Township since 1895, when Atlas Cement (Company) came,” he said. “It has been a long, long road. It’s very enjoyable to get this far. We now look beyond.”