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Old Dominion Freight Line to invest $13.6M in Bear site, expansion

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PHOTO COURTESY OF REVOLVER CREATIVE COMPANY/UNSPLASHED

BEAR — Old Dominion Freight Line, the second largest less-than-truckload (LTL) cargo carrier, will be relocating its New Castle site to Bear to draw in freight operations from its Baltimore and Philadelphia locations.

The 87-year-old company is a top consumer pickup and delivery service with 20,475 employees across the country, including 85 employees in two centers in the First State. Old Dominion held a presence in both New Castle off U.S. Route 202 since and north of Bridgeville since 1999. But facing a boom in the need for shipping services, Old Dominion Freight Line has set its sights on building a 50,000-square-foot facility, located on 20 acres of land off American Boulevard.

“We have outgrown our current facility in New Castle so much that we had to pull freight out of it,” Old Dominion Freight Line Vice President of the Northern Region Dave Steinert told the Council on Development Finance on Monday morning. “We’ve had to focus freight in our Philadelphia and Baltimore service centers just because New Castle couldn’t handle the growth. But once we move to Bear, we will be bringing back all those routes to Delaware.”

The Council on Development Finance, the state’s investment board, unanimously approved an incentive package of $394,500, including a jobs performance grant of up to $121,500 and a capital expenditure grant of up to $273,000.

Old Dominion Freight Line handles almost all consumer goods barring livestock and items that need to be refrigerated in LTL operations, where a trucking company carries shipments from multiple customers on a single trailer which in turn raises pricing leverage for carriers. It is the second-largest less-than-truckload operator after FedEx’s freight unit.

The $13.6 million facility would be one of Old Dominion’s new model centers with 70 to 80 doors for distribution, designed and built through the company’s partner contractors. Old Dominion considered Cecil County, Md., for its expansion, but ultimately signed a contract in Delaware due to its competitive edge and strategic location along Interstate 95.

The expansion would come with at least 20 new jobs, although Steinert believed Old Dominion would hire more. Once the Bear facility is built across from Dot Foods and ready to be opened, Steinert said it was likely the former New Castle center would either be sold or leased out. Operations in Bridgeville, which employs 21 people, will not be affected.

“Some of our employees [in New Castle] are from New Castle, others are from New Jersey and some are from Maryland and Pennsylvania,” Steinert said. “We would like to concentrate on adding employees that live in the Delaware area.”

Old Dominion first started with a single truck that ran a 94-mile route in Virginia, but has since blossomed to 24/7 service centers across the country that is headquartered in North Carolina. Old Dominion manages other operations like ground and air expedited transportation, container delivery and warehousing and more.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated already strong trends in e-commercewith Amazon driving Delaware’s distribution market with 7 million square feet either in construction or in operation — but the distribution and trucking industry has risen to meet the exploding demand. Old Dominion previously announced in 2021 it had added at least nine service centers in the United States, according to the Wall Street Journal. The company also plans to hire another 800 drivers this summer.

Old Dominion reported that LTL shipments for the first quarter of 2021 increased from 6.9% to $2.9 million from 2.7 million last year, while revenue per shipment was raised 7% to $384.76 from $359.64.

Steinert admitted hiring truck drivers to meet the high demand was an issue that Old Dominion, like many freight companies, faces right now. Old Dominion trains staff through its free in-house drivers school, which he said saves employees between $500 to $1,000.

“We like to grow our own talent, and we’ve been very successful both in New Castle and in Bridgeville, where we are fully staffed for drivers,” he said. “Our business is booming, and we have to stay aggressive. I’m not going to paint an easy picture, it’s very difficult to find drivers. But we have a great program and offer a solid company to work for that pays comparatively to our competition.”

Both Gov. John Carney and New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer celebrated Old Dominion’s Delaware expansion, pointing to the state’s continuing strength in attracting distribution and warehouse prospects.

“Old Dominion Freight Line’s continued investment in Delaware demonstrates the value of the state’s strategic location on the eastern seaboard,” Carney said in a prepared statement. “The company’s decision to stay and grow their operations in Delaware will ensure good-paying jobs remain in the state and will provide new employment opportunities for Delawareans. Old Dominion Freight Line’s investment in Delaware will support the continued growth of our state’s economy and the role it plays as a vital hub in the national and continental supply chain network.”

“We’re very excited that Old Dominion has chosen New Castle County to invest in our county and expand their operations right here,” Meyer added. “What’s most exciting is the opportunity for more good-paying jobs coming to our community. I look forward to working with Old Dominion and their team on ways to further grow their footprint in New Castle County.”

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