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05/04/2011 - Major expansion planned for FedEx Ground in Champaign

CHAMPAIGN -- FedEx Ground plans to make a major expansion to its Champaign hub over the next year, a company spokesman told The News-Gazette this week.

The expansion in the Apollo Subdivision in north Champaign could lead to an increase in jobs, though the company hasn't specified how many.

"Staffing levels for after the expansion have not yet been determined," FedEx Ground spokesman David Westrick said, noting the company will add jobs as business demand and package volume increases.

Construction of the addition is getting under way and should be complete by late summer of 2012, Westrick said.

The 97,600-square-foot addition will expand the hub to about 250,000 square feet, said Mark Dixon, director of real estate for the industrial, office and retail division of The Atkins Group, which developed the Apollo Subdivision.

The industrial park developer is pleased that FedEx committed to the expansion, Dixon said.

"It's a significant project strategically for their operation, and we're appreciative of their investment here in Champaign," he said. "This proves again that FedEx is an anchor employer for our community."

So far, the only building permit issued for the project is for a fuel canopy at the site, 102 E. Mercury Drive, with a projected cost of $541,545. But permits for footing and foundations have also been issued.

The FedEx Ground facility, located on 42 acres at the northeast corner of North Market Street and Mercury Drive, began operations in June 1999.

At the outset, the hub employed about 90-full-timers, 50 independent contractors and 250 part-time package handlers. By 2003, it employed between 300 to 310 people.

According to the 2010 edition of the Champaign County Economic Development Corp.'s Top Employers Directory, employment at the hub stood at 380 last year.

"The project is part of an ongoing expansion of the overall FedEx Ground U.S. network," Westrick said, noting the company has 32 hubs in the United States and Canada.

"Since 2003, we've added 10 hub facilities, 500 local pickup and delivery stations and seen package volume increase by more than 70 percent," he stated.

Over those eight years, package volume has grown from 2.1 million packages a day to more than 3.6 million a day, he added.

Westrick said there's no guarantee of new jobs with the expansion. He said the project was undertaken "to help with the capacity we're dealing with" and is geared more to FedEx's national growth.

"We're lucky we've been growing," Westrick said. "It's not at the same clip as historically, but the business is still growing."