Friday, April 1, 2011

Cosmetics company will take Jones space, creating 200 jobs

by Natalie Kostelni,

"Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. is growing its presence here, having secured a long-term lease on a large warehouse that will bring at least 200 jobs to Lower Bucks County.

The cosmetics company signed a 15-year lease on a 241,977-square-foot industrial building at 250 Rittenhouse Circle. The building is owned by Lexington Realty Trust of New York.

The building adds to Estée Lauder’s already significant presence in Lower Bucks, where it occupies in excess of 700,000 square feet of warehouse and distribution space. The company first set up a distribution center in Bristol some 20 years ago and steadily added space.

“The [Rittenhouse Circle] site was chosen due to the proximity of our other Pennsylvania locations,” a company spokeswoman said in an email. “Our Pennsylvania location provides a desirable geographic location for shipping and receiving due to its access to major roads and highways.”

The Rittenhouse Circle facility will handle logistical and warehouse operations.

The company declined to disclose how much space and how many employees in total it has in Bucks County, saying it doesn’t keep track of each number of employees at each location. People familiar with its operations there believe it’s more than 700,000 square feet.

The company first looked at the building more than a year ago and explored whether to tap the benefits offered by a Keystone Opportunity Zone that ran with the property. An opportunity zone gives a business breaks on some state and local taxes. After some time, the company stopped pursuing the building and another major company from New Jersey began to explore using the building but never consummated a deal, said Bob Cormack, executive director of the Bucks County Economic Development Corp.

In the end, Estée Lauder swooped in.

The company did not receive any money from Cormack’s organization or from the state, according to Cormack and State Sen. Tommy Tomlinson’s office. “I think it’s a great sign for Lower Bucks County that the company is expanding and that it sends a message that Lower Bucks is a viable area to do business,” Cormack said. “It’s an excellent move.”

Lower Bucks has a strong labor force that companies seek out that is proximate to the New York area as well as has access to major arteries running along the East Coast, Cormack said.

Estée Lauder, which will move in the second quarter, helps to fill a gap left by Express Scripts Inc. when it decided in December to close down a plant in nearby Bensalem and lay off about 500 workers. Express Scripts was looking to move into the building after the Department of Community and Economic Development designated the property in 2009 as an opportunity zone.

Express Scripts was considering relocating to the building from Bensalem. Estée Lauder has not applied to get the opportunity zone tax benefits, said Sean Schaffer, spokesman for Tomlinson, who was instrumental in getting the opportunity zone for the site to begin with. While the company declined to provide how many new jobs it would be creating at the site, Schaffer was able to confirm it was around 200.

The lease also fills space vacated by Jones Group Inc. The apparel company had the Rittenhouse Circle building, which sits on 15.6 acres, constructed in 1982 as its headquarters and distribution space. Jones vacated nearly four years ago."

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