UNION COUNTY — Belk will invest $32 million in its eCommerce distribution and fulfillment center in the Jonesville area and add an additional 170 employees by the end of 2015.
In September, Union County Council approved first reading of an ordinance amending “certain fees and special source credit agreements” for an entity designated as “Project Modern.” At the time of that first reading and the subsequent second reading in November, Supervisor Tommy Sinclair declined to reveal the identity of Project Modern, stating only that the ordinance was part of council’s efforts to facilitate what he described as a bright economic future for Union County.
On Tuesday, as council prepared to approve third and final reading of the ordinance, Sinclair revealed that Project Modern is Belk.
Council then voted unanimously to approve third and final reading of the ordinance which amends the Fee In Lieu of Taxes and Special Revenue Source Credit agreement Belk entered into with the county in 2012 when it established operations in the former Disney facility at 3805 Furman L. Fendley Highway in Jonesville. The amended ordinance states that Belk will invest $25 million in addition to the $4.5 million it agreed to invest in the original agreement. It also states that Belk will create “170 new, full-time jobs” in addition to the 124 jobs it agree to create in the original agreement.
While the agreement states Belk will invest $25 million in its eCommerce distribution and fulfillment center by Jan. 31, 2016, the company actually plans to invest even more by the end of 2015.
An announcement released by the S.C. Department of Commerce Tuesday afternoon states that Belk has already spent $9 million this year to upfit additional space at the 500,000-square-foot facility. The announcement further states that Belk plans to invest another $32 million in 2015 to further increase the center’s capacity with the 170 new jobs added by the end of the year.
“Our eCommerce business continues to grow very quickly and we need to invest in our fulfillment capabilities to keep pace with that growth,” John R. Belk, Belk, Inc. president and chief operating officer, said in the announcement. “Our Jonesville center has proven to be a great investment for us, and we are pleased to be able to bring additional resources into that community. We appreciate our partnership with Union County and the support the state and county have provided to help us grow our Jonesville facility.”
Sinclair praised Belk’s decision, pointing out that the increase in its investment is a sign of its faith in its continued involvement with Union County.
“I am delighted about Belk’s expansion at their eCommerce center in Union,” Sinclair said. “I commented last year at their initial opening that Belk and Union are a comfortable fit. Belk’s tag line of Modern. Southern. Style. is not just a brand, but a way of life.
“This new $32 million investment, the addition of 170 new jobs added to their year-to-date investment of $9 million dollars; plus their original commitment of 124 jobs at the Union center, is evidence of Belk’s continued and growing faith in our mutual future,” he said. “As eCommerce continues to grow, we have faith in Belk’s future growth and we pledge our support for that growth. We celebrate for our community, we celebrate for the Belk community.”
Belk’s decision was also praised by Joe Nichols, chairman of the Union County Development Board.
“We are very pleased to hear of the additional $32 million dollar planned investment and the 170 new jobs that Belk is creating in Union County,” Nichols said. “They have already made a significant investment here and we are very appreciative of their contribution to Union’s economic progress. Belk is a strong company and this new investment demonstrates their vision for growth in our community.”
Development Board Executive Director Andrena Powell-Baker pointed out that the investment is a strengthening of Belk’s already strong commitment to the county.
“Belk has always been a staple in Union County,” Powell-Baker said. “This new planned investment solidifies and extends their commitment to our community. The Union County Development Board is proud to support and embrace this exciting venture by Belk.”
The announcement states that the Coordinating Council for Economic Development approved a $300,000 rural infrastructure grant for the project.
State officials including Gov. Nikki Haley praised Belk’s decision.
“It’s a great day when a company with such a long tradition in South Carolina and across the Southeast chooses to expand here,” Gov. Nikki Haley said. “Belk’s decision to invest another $32 million and create 170 new jobs in Union County is a big win for the area and underscores that we are a major player in the distribution field. We appreciate Belk’s commitment to South Carolina.”
Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt pointed out that South Carolina is ideally suited to attract and support the expansion of companies like Belk.
“South Carolina’s logistics infrastructure makes our state ideal for distribution, including the rapidly growing eCommerce sector,”Hitt said. “The transportation, distribution and logistics sector today directly supports around 45,000 jobs in the state, with that number set to increase as we continue to invest in our roads, rails and port capabilities.”
Since January 2011, South Carolina has recruited more than $500 million in capital investment and more than 4,000 jobs in the warehouse and distribution sector.
The announcement states that, along with the company’s Pineville, N.C. eCommerce center, the Jonesville facility fulfills the Belk’s digital business, which is experiencing rapid growth. It further states that, according to the company, Belk’s online sales were up nearly 45 percent during the third quarter of the year (August to October) and up nearly 53 percent for the fiscal year to date (February to October).
In addition, the announcement states that “Belk’s digital shopping platform, Belk.com, offers apparel, shoes, accessories, cosmetics and home wares, in addition to the department store’s searchable gift registry. Founded 125 years ago, today Belk is the nation’s largest family-owned-and-operated department store company, with 301 stores in 16 states offering Belk’s signature ‘Modern. Southern. Style.’ The company is based in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, visit www.belk.com.”