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Savannah's Portly Project Portfolio

   In mid-December, IKEA, which just placed its first southeastern U.S. store in Atlanta, announced it would build a 1.7-million-sq.-ft. (157,930-sq.-m.) distribution center on 115 acres (47 hectares) at the Savannah River International Trade Park, creating 115 jobs. The project's 785,000-sq-.ft. (72,927-sq.-m.) first phase is expected to be operational by summer 2007.
   Key to the project is the proximity of the Port of Savannah, where IKEA expects some 15,000 TEUs a year to arrive. As evidence of Savannah's growing stature among ports on all coasts, the DC will serve three stores in Texas in addition to the Atlanta store.
   "As one of the fastest growing ports in the country, Savannah offers the long-term capacity, infrastructure and geography that we were seeking to complement our distribution presence in North America," said Keith Keller, IKEA North America's Distribution Services president. The private company's investment total was not disclosed, but the project's size is exactly the same as the company's West Coast facility at Tejon Ranch in Kern County, Calif.
   Joseph Roth, spokesman for IKEA, tells Site Selection that while those four stores are the initial service target for the DC, "we have a vision for additional stores in the Southeast. We needed to ensure a good flow of product, and a distribution center in the southeast is integral to that plan."
DaimlerChrysler again bypassed this super-site in Pooler, Ga., for an investment in commercial van production, instead choosing an existing company complex in North Charleston, S.C. Located at a junction of Interstates and with easy access to the growing Port of Savannah, the site, first developed for a projected DaimlerChrysler project in 2002, remains on the market.
   The project was just the latest in a string of good news emanating from the port, including three record months in a row for containers handled, and continued work toward further development around its companion port in Brunswick. Two "Super-Post Panamax" cranes have been added, among other logistics improvements to the port grounds.
   "We're in the process of doing this in several regions of the country," says IKEA's Roth of the site selection process. "We analyzed ports from Virginia all the way around the Gulf to Texas, looking not just at port capacity but available land nearby and the ability to purchase it, construction costs and of course time frame — while we did not have a definite time frame in mind, once we start looking we always prefer sooner rather than later. Savannah was a natural and logical choice for us, and port is expanding and progressing in a very good way."
   Indeed it is. Trumping IKEA's warehouse size in that same trade park is Target's forthcoming 2-million-sq.-ft. (185,800-sq.-m.) import warehouse announced in September, which will employ 200. That facility too will come online in summer 2007. In addition to the 800-person DC the company already operated in Tifton, Target had just announced in early 2005 a 1.5-million-sq.-ft. (139,350-sq.-m.), 500-employee regional DC in Midway, Liberty County, adjacent to Savannah.
   The unannounced development costs for the port's Target and IKEA projects may be estimated by looking at documents related to the $3-million state EDGE award for the Midway project, which was competed for by Florida: Total project cost there is projected to come to nearly $95 million, which suggests the port projects could rival the $100-million price tags of the AFLAC and Georgia-Pacific projects.
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