Oct. 6--IKEA, the Swedish peddler of funky, affordable housewares, could soon be unloading tons of circular beds, dirt-cheap umbrellas and little meatballs at the port of Savannah.
Two weeks after Target Corp. said it would build one of the largest warehouses at Savannah's port, IKEA is said to be planning an equally huge import center at a nearby site, people close to the deal said.
IKEA has not committed to a Georgia import facility, but the company is exploring building more stores in the Southeast and other parts of the country, said Joseph Roth, an IKEA spokesman.
People familiar with the IKEA project said the warehouse would be between 700,000 and 1.5 million square feet and create as many jobs as Target's facility. The discount retailer plans to hire 200 people at first and hundreds more in years to come.
Target's 2 million-square-foot facility will open in the summer of 2007.
Both facilities would be built at the Savannah River International Trade Park, a 2,200-acre site owned by the Georgia Ports Authority about four miles from Savannah's main port terminal.
The property was once a rice plantation where Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin.
A spokesman for the Georgia Ports Authority would not confirm plans for the site.
IKEA opened its first Georgia location at the Atlantic Station development this summer and is looking to expand to other markets in the Southeast, including Texas and Florida, Roth said.
A Dallas store opened Aug. 3, and an Austin area store will open in 2007.
IKEA currently has 2 million-square-foot distribution warehouses in Southern California and Maryland. The company plans to expand a 700,000-square-foot facility in New Jersey, Roth said.
Port officials have been actively courting major retailers to ship their goods through Savannah in recent years, said Robert Morris, a ports authority spokesman.
Wal-Mart and Home Depot already have facilities near the port, and more than 12 million square feet of new warehouse space has been built or announced in the past year, he said.
A flood of Chinese goods coming into the United States has major ports like Los Angeles running at full capacity, said Karl Manrodt, a logistics professor at Georgia Southern University.
With more congestion at major ports, importers are increasingly steering business to ports such as Savannah's, which has ready access to rail lines and I-95, Manrodt said.
Savannah is the No. 2 port on the East Coast for goods coming in from and shipping out to Asia, Morris said.