LUCKEY — Using a football theme, the Home Depot “kicked off” its largest Direct Fulfillment Center on Friday in Troy Township with an open house.

The building is a massive 1.6 million square feet of space and is already in use to serve online orders for the home improvement retail company.

John Dawley, an area supervisor for one of the modules, tracked it as a nearly 1.5 mile walk around the interior perimeter of the building. It’s about 5.5 miles to walk up and down each aisle in the building.

With more than 300 employees now, the company is expected to eventually provide 500 jobs.

The center is one of three fulfillment centers in the country for Home Depot, with two near Atlanta and one in California. The Troy Township center will serve the entire northeast portion of the country and beyond.

Products will be dispersed from Wood County to areas on the East Coast, all the way west to Missouri. There are no official boundaries.

When the facility is at capacity, it will ship out as many as 30,000 pieces of merchandise each day. Since opening a few weeks ago, employees are already processing roughly 8,000 items a day. More shelves are being stocked on a regular basis to get the facility up to full capacity.

Craig Menear, the chairman and CEO of Home Depot, was on hand for Friday’s open house. He told the staff and guests that this is “the largest and most complicated distribution center in our supply chain.”

That would not only include the three fulfillment centers, but also the ones which supply the retail stores.

“This gives us greater reach. We can now deliver our products to 90 percent  of Americans within two days,” said Scott Spata, vice president of direct fulfillment.

He said Ohio was chosen because company officials wanted to be as far west as possible and remain within a few hours range of the East Coast. The Troy Township site also is near major highways both north-south and east-west.

“There is a good quality labor force here,” said Tim Crow, executive vice president for human resources

Kevin Hofmann, president of online services, said the online business complements the brick and mortar stores with many people looking online and later visiting the store to make the purchase. Others will simply order online.

“Customers can have their items shipped directly to their home, to a job site or to their nearest Home Depot store for pick up at the store,” he said. “Right now there are approximately 35,000 different items in the average store. We have nearly a million different items online, so people can get whatever they need.”

He said in this location they already stock 25,000 items for distribution with more arriving regularly. They expect to stock 100,000 items on a regular basis.

Hofmann said the online business alone was $3.5 billion last year and has increased by a billion dollars each of the last two years.

“We expect it to keep growing and growing,” he said.

The facility is a clean-air facility, largely in part, due to the use of hydrogen fuel in the 127 pieces of equipment used to move merchandise including tow motors and fork lifts.

The 300-plus and growing employees are divided into two shifts. Each shift works 12-hour days. One crew works Sunday through Tuesday; while the other crew works Wednesday through Friday. Everyone has Saturday off, except if overtime is needed during busy seasons. There is also a night crew which replenishes the racks within the center.

In addition to the jobs, the facility is a boost to the Wood County economy and local schools.

According to Wade Gottschalk, executive director of Wood County Economic Development, through the tax abatement agreement made to secure the facility, Eastwood Schools will receive $675,000 a year for 15 years. Penta Career Center will receive $75,000 a year for the same time frame.

“This is a sizeable amount of money for the schools,” he said.

Gottschalk and his office were first contacted about this project in August 2012. They worked through all the details including site selection and plan approval along with the tax incentives.

He explained the tax abatement is a fairly standard incentive used for development in the county.

“We made sure everything was taken care of so they could have a successful project here in the county,” Gottschalk said.

The sewer and water lines were already in place so that was one less hurdle to handle.

While they do not calculate exact dollar figures for benefits locally, Gottschalk said, “There’s definitely a great economic impact on the county.”

Menear told those gathered, “We are so proud to be in Troy Township and in Ohio.”

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