ROCK HILL — The Energizer Bunny soon will be passing through Rock Hill before it lands on retail shelves.
Exel, which has distributed Energizer batteries for more than 20 years, broke ground Tuesday on a $45 million, 1-million-square-foot distribution center at the Riverwalk Business Park off Celriver Road.
Exel also will distribute other Energizer Holdings products such as Hawaiian Tropic and Banana Boat sun tan lotions, Playtex products for women and children, and Schick razors and Edge shaving cream for men.
Energizer Holdings will send the products from its plants to Rock Hill batteries are made in Asheboro, N.C., and sun tan lotion in Ormond Beach, Fla. where Exel will bundle and ship them to retail stores.
The distribution center is expected to open in April. It will employ 130 people. Hiring will begin in January.
The location off Interstate 77, the local work force and other distribution centers nearby were factors in Exels choosing Rock Hill, said Franklin Littleton, president of the consumer sector for Exel.
York Countys other distribution centers, such as Ross, helps us recruit, Littleton said. People know what to expect.
Exel will be next to Physicians Choice Laboratory Services. They are the first companies to build in Riverwalk, a 315-acre, mixed-use development where the Celanese chemical plant was located.
Celanese, which closed its Rock Hill plant in 2005, was once one of the citys largest employers.
Exels choosing Riverwalk validates the overall plan, said David Williams, lead developer of Assured Group of Companies, which is developing the project.
The residential aspects of Riverwalk are progressing, Williams said. The first phase of residential lots near the Catawba River have sold out, and a second phase of 95 lots will be made available to developers in July. Wise Properties of Chattanooga, Tenn, will build a 144-unit apartment complex near the Giordana Velodrome, Williams said.
Exel selected Rock Hill after looking at sites in Virginia and North Carolina, company officials said. The company is consolidating operations from Carlisle, Pa., and Atlanta.
Edward Hahn, Exels senior director of customer development, said the two plants employ about 120 people. When the two centers close, he said, those employees will be offered jobs at other Exel operations.
In addition to Energizer Holdings, Exel provides contract logistics to a wide range of industries, including automotive, consumer, retail, engineering and manufacturing, life sciences and healthcare, technology, energy and chemicals.
The company employs 43,000 people at more than 450 sites throughout the United States, Canada and Latin America. It is part of the Supply Chain division of Deutsche Post DHL.
The new distribution center will rely on radio-frequency technology to move products quickly, said Frank Pyryt, director of operations for Exel.
The technology will direct workers to bins where products are kept. Workers will scan a bar code, take what they need to fill orders, and bundle them with other products for shipment.
Exels system should align closely with the materials handling and logistics program at Rock Hill schools Applied Technology Center, said its director, Don Gillman.
Gillman said the center will look at the skills needed by Exel and make sure they fit with the centers curriculum.
Don Worthington • 803-329-4066