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Ross Stores to bring $150M distribution site to Rock Hill

Discount retailer Ross Stores Inc. will invest $150 million for a new distribution and warehousing center in Rock Hill that’s expected to create 600 jobs over five years, officials said Wednesday.

The facility will span 1.2 million square feet and ship merchandise to Ross Dress for Less and retail stores in 30 states. The center, under construction in the Antrim Business Park off Dave Lyle Boulevard, is expected to open in 2013.

Officials hailed it as an economic victory that could help bolster job growth at a time when the state’s unemployment rate is 9.1 percent – above the national average of 8.3 percent.

“This new operation is verification of York County’s focus on the value of existing industry and the benefits they bring to our community,” York County Council chairman Britt Blackwell said. “We are excited about the hundreds of new jobs that will be part of this investment.”

The announcement followed news this week that French tire giant Michelin will invest $750 million for a new plant and a factory expansion in Anderson and Lexington counties that’s expected to bring 500 new jobs.

The Michelin and Ross decisions to expand, along with similar announcements around the country, signal the economy is improving, Winthrop University economist Robert Stonebraker said.

But while Ross’ announcement is promising, Stonebraker said it’s likely not significant enough to budge York County’s unemployment rate of 10.6 percent by more than a percentage point.

“Any positive job news is good news,” he said. “But it’s not single-handedly going to have much effect on York County.”

Still, people with jobs are more likely to dine out, buy more groceries and patronize area businesses, which Stonebraker said could cause a “trickle down” economic effect.

South Carolina has been praised for netting several big manufacturing projects, including Boeing, Continental Tire and Bridgestone Tire, which have opened or announced new manufacturing plants.

That’s due in part to generous tax incentives, which officials have used to lure jobs.

Ross received $2.5 million in state incentive grants in addition to job development credits contingent on the number of jobs created, according to the S.C. Department of Commerce.

York County gave Ross a property tax break of 43 percent, which could top $200,000 in city and county taxes. That estimate could change once a valuation is established, said Mark Farris, York County’s economic development director.

Michelin is expected to receive $9.1 million worth of incentive grants to close the deal.

Continental got $31 million, and Bridgestone $15.5 million. Boeing also received a deal worth hundreds of millions.

Some have criticized the use of incentives as unfair government favoritism to certain companies.

Farris said they’re useful tools, but their influence is sometimes overstated. They often affect companies’ decisions to move less than an area’s location, quality of life and infrastructure, he said.

The agreement with Ross is “a great deal for the county in terms of return on investment,” Farris said.

Centrally located between Florida and northern commerce centers, York County has proved attractive to companies looking to ship goods up and down the East Coast.

Black & Decker, US Food Service, Northern Tool and West Marine and Legrand have distribution centers here.

A distribution center

Ross, based in California, already employs 1,200 people at two distribution centers in the Fort Mill area.

The quality of the county’s roads and its proximity to Charlotte’s international airport make it even more attractive, York County Manager Jim Baker said.

“Ross has found York County a good place to do business over the past 10 years,” Michael Wilson, Ross senior vice president of supply chain, said in a news release. “We currently operate in the county over 1.9 million square feet of warehouse and distribution space as well as our supply chain headquarters. We look forward to adding this new facility to our distribution capabilities.”

Ross Stores Inc. did not respond to requests for information about when to apply for jobs at the center.

The company offers a job search program at rossstores.com under the heading “careers.”

The Charlotte Observer contributed

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