Whirlpool Plans Regional Distribution Center in Forth Worth, Texas

Jan. 12--FORT WORTH -- Whirlpool Corp., the largest U.S. seller of home appliances, will soon open a second regional distribution center in Fort Worth, initially bringing about 60 new jobs to the south sector of the city, the company said.

Whirlpool has signed a two-year lease for the former General Motors parts plant in the Carter Industrial Park, off Interstate 35W and Everman Parkway. The center is expected to be fully operating by March.

The center, which will be more than 724,000 square feet, will primarily warehouse refrigerators and washers made at Whirlpool's manufacturing plants in Mexico for distribution to dealers in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico, said Steve Duthie, a spokesman at the company's headquarters in Benton Harbor, Mich.

The center will also warehouse other appliances made at Whirlpool's U.S. plants, including from Fort Smith, Ark.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Oxford, Miss., he said.

"The Southwest is a rapidly expanding market for us," Duthie said. "This is an expansion. The facility in Carter Industrial Park stood out as the most viable option due to the existing railroad service with BNSF Railway, proximity to the port system in the Gulf of Mexico, interstate access and the labor market in Fort Worth."

David Berzina, executive vice president at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, said Whirlpool searched the Metroplex and Houston for a location.

"We are certainly pleased that Whirlpool has chosen to expand their presence here," he said.

The lease takes a large chunk of industrial space off the south Fort Worth market, where vacancy rates have hovered at about 9 percent, said Walter Floyd, a broker with NAI Huff Partners in Fort Worth, who represented the landlord, Industrial Realty Group in Los Angeles, in the deal.

Trey Fricke, a broker with Lee & Associates in Dallas, also worked on the deal.

Whirlpool operates a regional distribution center in the CentrePort business park, at Texas 360 and Trinity Boulevard, south of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. That 400,000-square-foot center employs about 100 workers.

Duthie said Whirlpool plans to operate the south Fort Worth center long-term but only signed a short-term lease to give the company time to determine space needs.

The company plans to add more employees during the next couple of years, possibly boosting employment at the distribution center to more than 100, he said.

Whirlpool is waiting for federal regulatory approval on its proposed acquisition of Maytag Corp., the No. 2 U.S. seller of home appliances. Maytag shareholders approved the more than $1 billion acquisition in December. The companies said they expect the deal to close next month.

(Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Fort Worth) (KRT) -- 01/13/06)