ATLANTA-In the second deal of its kind in the Southeast for Ford Motor Co., First Industrial Realty Trust Inc. of Chicago says it has signed a contract with the Dearborn, MI-based automaker to construct an $8 million, 231,000-sf high-velocity distribution center at Greenwood Industrial Park in Henry County.

Working with the Atlanta office of St. Louis-based Arco Design/Build, First Industrial plans to break ground on the project in June and have it completed by spring 2004. Ford will lease the property for 10 years, during which time the automaker will use the facility to distribute parts to its dealers in Georgia.

The Henry County project will be similar to the high-velocity center First Industrial is completing for Ford in Mebane, NC, Sam O’Briant, vice president of development services for First Industrial’s eastern region, tells “Building state-of-the-art distribution facilities is one of the many ways we serve the needs of our customers,” O’Briant says.

Building a distribution center in less than 12 months is routine for the First Industrial-Arco team, O’Briant says. “It’s easier to work on project of this kind in the summertime,” he says.

Still unanswered for local industrial real estate observers and city-county officials, however, is the fate of Ford’s 2.3 million-sf, 56-year-old manufacturing plant in suburban Hapeville, GA. Ford has been looking for a new manufacturing site in metro Atlanta for over a year, according to local brokers and city officials. Whether Ford plans to operate two manufacturing sites or close down the Hapeville plant is the undetermined factor.

First Industrial, however, is not involved in the development plans for a new Ford manufacturing site. “I wish we were,” O’Briant tells “That would be great.”

Jamie Dingeman and Blaine Kelley of CB Richard Ellis Inc. assisted First Industrial in the distribution center deal with Ford.

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