POTTSVILLE, PA-Sara Lee Corp. has committed to build a distribution center and regional customer service center on a 40-acre parcel in Highridge Business Park. Plans call for a 182,000-sf warehouse and a two-story, 15,000-sf office at the site at an estimated investment cost of $24 million.

The larger building will feature cooler and freezer space and a temperature-controlled shipping and receiving dock. The parcel is a designated Keystone Opportunity Zone, which forgives state and municipal taxes. Sara Lee expects to be operational at the site by October.

Highridge is a 2,000-acre business park developed by the Schuylkill Economic Development Corp. Among the other occupants are regional distribution centers for Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Sears Logistics Services, Wegmans Food Markets and Fanelli Trucking and Warehousing.

The Sara Lee project was coordinated by Gov. Ed Rendell’s action team, which worked with SEDCO to secure a $375,000 financial package from the Department of Community and Economic Development. The package includes a grant of up to $250,000 from the Opportunity Grant Program and up to $125,000 in customized job training funds.

This is the Downers Grove, IL-based consumer products company’s first location in Pennsylvania and, according to Gov. Rendell, will create 123 new jobs. The site selection process began last July, according to Gerry Heffner, SEDCO VP, “and (it) encompassed several eastern Pennsylvania communities.”

Sara Lee is a global maker and marketer of brand-name consumer products. In Feburary 2005, it began implementing a multi-year plan to transform into a company focused on its food, beverage, household and body care businesses worldwide.

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