On Tuesday, one of the bigger not-so-secret secrets around Cecil County was officially let out of the bag when officials announced that Lidl, a German supermarket retailer, will indeed begin work on a major distribution center here.
The company picked up a building permit Tuesday morning to construct a 754,000-squarefoot regional distribution center on a 100-acre site in Principio Business Park off Route 40 near Perryville. The estimated cost for the project is more than $100 million and the company plans to hire more than 100 full-time employees over the next three years, sources said.
Council President Robert Hodge voiced his support for the announcement, along with the rest of the council and County Executive Tari Moore.
“Cecil County is very pleased to welcome Lidl to our community,” Moore said Tuesday.
For those who read the Whig, however, the news wasn’t exactly groundbreaking: County Councilman Dan Schneckenburger leaked the info while on the campaign trail for county executive more than a month ago.
But the Lidl decision does make us wonder: Will this be the tipping point that many economic watchdogs have been looking for in Cecil County?
Ever since the March closure of the C&S Wholesale Grocers food distribution center in North East, which cost the county nearly 200 jobs, we’ve wondered whether and when Cecil County could rebound.
But what we believe now is that the C&S closure was simply a cruel twist of fate that saw the Cecil County center being used as a pawn between the company and its labor union.
Could Cecil County have fought as hard as its Washington Beltway compatriots did to retain their distribution centers? Probably.
Would we have been able to offer a more competitive package than they could to retain C&S? Probably not.
But what it is for sure is that Cecil County has a bright future as a distribution hub.
After all, despite what some critics may say, this county is well poised to grow significantly as a regional distribution hub well into the future. With three access points to Interstate 95, drive times of just a few hours to New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and access to regional commercial rail lines like CSX, there is no reason why more of Cecil County’s Route 40 corridor cannot support distribution centers like the one planned by Lidl.
What is even more enticing to potential employers and investors is that Cecil County continues to be an untapped market for retail possibilities. Lidl has recognized this by trying to build a retail grocery store in Elkton off Route 40 in conjunction with its new distribution center.
Aside from Lidl’s distribution center, two other county fast-track projects are also going into Principio Business Park on Route 40.
Officials have said concept designs for the three projects total slightly more than 2.2 million square-feet of new warehousing, manufacturing, office and plant processing space. They also have the potential to create more than 1,800 jobs over time.
While we don’t know the exact impact of these projects quite yet, we do know that the Principio project is among the 100 East Coast pieces that Lidl thinks will be a “game changer in the U.S.”
What we’re hoping for is a “game changer” of our own with expansive positive growth in jobs.