Tip­ping point?

Cecil Whig - - OPINION -

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.

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