PEABODY — US Foods, a nationwide food distribution giant, wants to move from its current facility in Peabody to Seabrook, N.H., bringing millions of dollars in construction investments and more than 300 jobs to that town.
With no expansion possible at its property in Peabody, the company has spent four years looking at relocation sites, Jeffrey Barnes, director of corporate real estate for US Foods said at a Planning Board meeting Tuesday night in Seabrook. When company officials found the Poland Springs’ building in Seabrook, they felt that its already existing, huge storage warehouse presents an “exciting and unique opportunity” to relocate from its “older, tired, inefficient” 188,000-square-foot warehouse, Barnes said.
News of the move was an unpleasant surprise for some Peabody officials. It will have multiple ill effects, noted City Councilor Dave Gravel, including the loss of tax revenue, the possible loss of jobs and the possible perception by some that the city’s Centennial Park is not the best location.
“People will ask, ‘Why are they leaving?’” he said. “It hurts to lose people like that. Our efforts have been to grow the park.”
Strengthening Centennial Park has been one of Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s major goals. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.
“Disappointing,” said Councilor Barry Osborne of the proposed move. His ward includes the US Foods warehouse. “We want to maintain our strong commercial tax base.”
Osborne said he hadn’t heard of the departure before and wasn’t sure if anyone in the city had. He said, “We definitely need to talk to them. We should ask them straight out — ‘What’s it going to take to keep you here?’”
“It’s not good news,” said Council President Tom Gould. “It hurts to lose employees.” He quickly ended the phone call, explaining that he needed to find out more.