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When Ken Burns, vice president, operations for Spectrum Brands started searching for sites to build a new global auto care distribution center more than a year ago, he zeroed in on his company’s center of customer gravity: Cincinnati and Southwestern Ohio.

That’s when he got an unexpected call from Montgomery County’s development director, Erik Collins, who had heard that Burns was looking.

That call in early 2016 impressed Burns. He had not told anyone in Dayton he was looking.

”They called us up here in January,” Burns said. “Evidently, they heard it somehow. Truly, they reached out to me … Erik Collins, he reached out to me.”

Collins confirmed Burns’ recollection.

“I called him and cultivated that,” Collins said. “The whole team makes it happen. But I am so happy that it worked out for everyone.”

That was an early step on the road to construction of a $33 million, 570,000-square-foot center for distribution, manufacturing and research near Dayton International Airport, off U.S. 40.

The site selection was made a few months later, and Montgomery County made an official announcement in June 2016.

Ground was broken in June, the first concrete wall was poured in September and the first pallet was shipped in January.

Everything fell into place, Collins said.

“I felt like everything aligned strategically for us, and based on what the (company’s) parameters were, we had a compelling business case,” he said.

The building is more than a warehouse. Spectrum Brands encompasses a lot of recognizable household, living, garden, pet and auto-oriented brands: Black & Decker, Remington, Rayovac, Baldwin, STP, ArmorAll and many more.

Spectrum Brands Holdings bought the Armored AutoGroup from Avista Capital Partners for $1.4 billion in April 2015. So the Vandalia center north of National Road is focused mostly on consolidation, production and shipping of auto care products — A/C Pro, Tuff Stuff, Armor All and STP — but other brands will find a place at the center.

The single site has made possible the closing or shrinking of operations in Garland, Texas, Painesville and Mentor, Ohio, as well as the San Francisco, Calif. area.

“We were in the wrong spot in Texas,” Burns said. “Painesville is a very small location. We just didn’t have the ability to grow.”

“We felt like we could satisfy all of our customers from one location, from a delivery standpoint,” he added. “We started looking at the center part of the United States.”

Dayton made sense and continues to make sense, he said. Business costs, availability of labor, proximity to interstates 70 and 75, and state and local incentives sealed the deal.

As big as it already is, the site is built to grow, Burns said. Holding the first right on refusal on property adjacent, the center has room to expand.

The center has 187 permanent employees, and temporary workers fluctuate from about 125 to 200.

The center is hiring carefully because leaders here don’t want to lay workers off, Burns said. But state and local incentives were offered with the understanding that the site would employ 350 people.

The Ohio Tax Credit Authority offered a 1.217 percent, seven-year credit, worth up to $617,000. The center must maintain its local presence there for at least 10 years, according to the state’s expectation. The project also won $350,000 in Montgomery County ED/GE (Economic Development/Government Equity) funds.

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