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FREETOWN, MA-The rebirth of Southeastern Massachusetts as an industrial mecca continues with the latest victory for the area coming from the TJX Co. The Framingham-based retail chain is moving forward with plans to construct a $25.2-million Homegoods distribution center at the site of a gravel pit off Braley Road.

TJX, which also owns such off-brand retailers as Marshalls and T.J. Maxx, hopes to begin work on the massive 800,000-sf building by January, with completion slated for next autumn. Along with the stand-alone building, the 68-acre parcel will also support parking for 500 vehicles and 350 truck trailers.

Company spokeswoman Sherry Lang says the facility will consolidate Homegoods wares that are currently scattered in various company distribution centers throughout the region, none of which are dedicated solely to that operation. While not the company’s largest distribution center, Lang says the Freetown property “will be on the upper end.” Homegoods also operates in Florida, the Midwest and California.

“Homegoods is a rapidly growing, successful division of our company,” says Lang. After beginning 2,000 with 51 Homegoods, TJX plans to add 30 stores both this year and next, and eventually sees it as a 500-store operation. The Freetown complex will supply Homegoods throughout New England, although Lang could not provide a precise number of stores that will be served. She was also unable to estimate the number of jobs that will be generated by the plant, except to say she believes it is “a substantial” number.

The Homegoods project is part of a recent trend in the state, with manufacturing and distribution companies increasingly headed into the South coastal region, one anchored by such communities as New Bedford and Fall River. According to industry observers, the area’s greatest draw is its labor force, with an unemployment rate more than double the state’s current 3% level. One of the bigger concerns in Massachusetts is where future employees will come from to sustain the prolonged economic boon, and the Freetown market appears to be benefiting from that uncertainty.

Along with Homegoods, for example, the Campanelli Cos. has just purchased 130 acres in Freetown. Principal Robert DeMarco says his Braintree-based firm has received a warm welcome from the town, calling officials there “incredibly cooperative and enthusiastic about us trying to lure companies” into the community. In addition, the Greater Fall River Development Corp. has acquired nearly 50 acres in Freetown from ComEnergy on which it hopes to attract industrial users. The non-profit agency paid $6 million for the land.

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