Outdoors, incentives, growth leads Backcountry.com to build new fulfillment center in Virginia

Backcountry.com is expanding with a second fulfillment center. SNEWS finds out why Virgina marked the spot for the online retailer's new East Coast location, and if any changes are ahead in Utah.
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Online outdoor retailer Backcountry.com has signed a deal to build a new fulfillment center in Christiansburg, Va.

The new location, expected to open in July 2012, will handle the Utah-based company’s East Coast distribution operations, while its existing location in West Valley City, Utah, will remain there to deal with West Coast business.

After 14 years with a single fulfillment center in Utah, the company’s growth and its desire to faster fulfill East Coast orders led to the decision to expand, Backcountry.com vice president of fulfillment Jeff Carter told SNEWS®. He said the new center is projected to employ about 200 people within about a year and a half after opening. In the meantime, seasonal workers are being hired to handle the holiday rush in Utah for this year.

No full-time Backcountry.com employees are expected to lose their jobs in Utah once the East Coast center opens, although a few have expressed interest in relocating out east, Carter said.

Christiansburg attracted the company for several reasons, Carter said. Officials had also considered locations in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

“Virginia is a great state for business, and with its location we can hit the entire East Coast with two-day ground shipping,” Carter said. In addition, UPS and Fed-Ex said they had extra capacity at their Roanoke, Va. facilities, where shipments are handled for the area, about 30 miles northeast from Christiansburg on Interstate 81. “Our strategy in Utah is that we ship until 11 p.m., and we plan to do the same on the East Coast,” Carter said.

Economic incentives also helped. The state approved a $300,000 grant from the Virginia Governor’s Opportunity Fund, dependent on Backcountry.com meeting several economic and employment goals. Plus, the Virginia Jobs Investment Program and the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide funding and services to support the company's recruitment, training and retraining activities.

Montgomery County, where Christiansburg is located, will allow Backcountry.com to construct its building on 40 acres of land the county owns in Falling Branch Corporate Park. The company’s capital investment of the new building and equipment is estimated at $20 million, officials said.

The outdoors also played a role. The area borders the Appalachian Trail, and it's where “outdoor sports are part of the lifestyle, and that’s important to us,” said Backcountry.com CEO Jill Layfield in a statement. “Virginia is for gear lovers.”

Backcountry.com officials said the new East Coast fulfillment center will be approximately as big as its existing center in Utah. The company recently increased that West Valley City fulfillment center at 2670 S. 3200 West from 200,000 to 325,000 square feet this summer, consolidating another smaller center it had in Salt Lake City.

Backcountry.com is a subsidiary of Liberty Interactive Corp. (Nasdaq:LINTA).

-- David Clucas

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