UPS Expansion Shows What Bluegrass Has Done for Brown
founder Robert Stephens says the computer service company can work anywhere, citing locations in London and Madrid as well as stand-alone U.S. shops and operations within parent company Best Buy.
But when the time came for Geek Squad City, a self-contained hub where hundreds of agents work to repair computers within 24 hours of receiving them, the destination of choice was suburban Louisville.
“The most important thing we need is access to parts, with the one-day turnaround, and there are a lot of parts suppliers. And we certainly love UPS,” Stephens says.
UPS in Louisville, KY
UPS loves Kentucky, too. The shipping giant started in Louisville in 1982 with 150 employees and a mere 200,000 square feet. It is in the midst of a massive expansion of its Worldport, next to the Louisville International Airport, a $1 billion project that will grow the footprint to 5.2 million square feet and create another 5,000 jobs.
“We looked at a lot of locations,” says Tom Volta, UPS vice president of human resources in Louisville. “Louisville provides us with the best opportunity. Most locations in the U.S. are within three days. It is the farthest western portion of the Eastern time zone.”
When it came time to expand, the region still made sense.
“We already had the infrastructure in place,” Volta says. “The economy in Kentucky is not subject to high swings. It stays pretty level.”
Expansions to UPS Facility
The Worldport expansion’s first phase will open in 2009 and boost UPS’ sorting capacity from 304,000 packages per hour to 350,000 packages per hour. The second phase aims to tackle 416,000 packages an hour.
The vast facility already has docks at its buildings for 44 airplanes and is adding 26 more, Volta says. The expansion will add 1.2 million square feet and nearly triple the miles of conveyor belts to 170. The presence of UPS is a major draw for logistics and distribution operations. Greater Louisville is a frequent component of Expansion Management magazine’s Top 10 markets for logistics. Amazon.com has distribution centers in Taylor, Fayette and Boone counties. Geek Squad City opened in Hillview in 2006 with 165,000 square feet of space and hundreds of “agents.” On a quiet day, UPS delivers 1,500 boxes, according to Geek Squad’s Web site.
Stephens credits the quality of life in the Louisville area as another factor in the company’s ability to recruit and keep people. Agents from other Geek Squad locales want to transfer to Kentucky, he says.
“It’s a good economic climate; there’s a steady supply of talent. It’s certainly a nice place to live and centrally located,” Stephens says.
Hillview is in Bullitt County, which also is home to distribution centers for Zappos Shoes. The county has also attracted Alliance Entertainment, which handles video games, books, DVDs and other merchandise for big U.S. retailers; Gordon Food Service; APL Logistics; and a pharmaceutical division of Johnson & Johnson, among others.
“UPS has been the main driver from my point of view,” says Bob Fouts, director of the Bullitt County Development Authority. “It really has had an impact. I’ve been here five years, and we’ve located 20-plus companies.”