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Uline’s launch this spring of its massive distribution center in Collier County is the latest example of economic diversification of an area that heavily relies on tourism and construction industries.

“What it signifies to us as much as anything is how our government is making investments in our community,” says Collier County Commissioner Bill McDaniel, whose district included Uline when it was greenlighted. “We have to incentivize non-construction-related industry to come to our community. That’s the key to long-term economic sustainability.”

Uline, a Wisconsin-based distributor of shipping, packaging and industrial materials, completed construction in early 2023 of its 915,750-square-foot warehouse off City Gate Boulevard east of Collier Boulevard, near the 100-acre Paradise Coast Sports Complex and the future Great Wolf Lodge Resort.

“This size building is on par with other buildings that you’d see throughout the Uline network,” says Naples Branch Manager Brad Heisner. “It has quite a bit of space in it, which is part of the Uline value proposition. We like to always have stock for our customers.”

The company offers same-day shipping on more than 40,000 products from its website and 840-plus-page catalog. “Boxes are our bread and butter,” Heisner says. “But any warehouse supplies or shipping-related supplies are also in our wheelhouse.”

DeAngelis Diamond of Naples teamed up with Minneapolis-based Mortenson to build the $96 million distribution center for Uline, which began construction in July 2021. After major on-site events in February and March to hire about 200 employees, Uline plans to begin serving Florida customers in April from its new air-conditioned warehouse and offices.

“I think Naples is craving an employer like us in the area,” Heisner says. “Our business brings steady, year-round job employment to a market heavily dominated by the seasonal service and tourist industries. We offer above-market wages, and it’s a place where you can grow. There are not many better employers out there than Uline, if any.”

The Collier location is the first distribution center in Florida for the fast-expanding Uline, which has more than 9,000 employees at distribution centers in California, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as in Canada and Mexico. The Naples center will distribute products to most of Florida, serving the major metropolitan markets of Miami, Orlando and Tampa. The advantage of locating a center in Naples allows Uline to easily serve Miami via Interstate 75’s Alligator Alley without being in the middle of Miami’s congestion, Heisner said.

“In Naples, it’s a direct, uninterrupted route to Miami, and then Tampa and Orlando are easily served through I-75, as well,” he says. “Collier County is a conducive environment for businesses and it aligns with how Uline likes to operate. It was pretty much an easy choice for us to decide to build here.”

In December 2020, Uline purchased 102.68 acres in the City Gate commerce center. “This monumental transaction has been several years in the making and a big win for Collier County and Southwest Florida as a whole,” says William Rollins, senior broker of LSI Companies, which brokered the deal.

“We’re thrilled with Uline’s investment here in Collier County,” says Michael Dalby, president and CEO of Naples Chamber of Commerce, which has a partnership with Collier County to help with economic development outreach. “It really does both provide some good jobs that are fairly well-paying and have benefits attached to them, as well, along with diversifying the economy. This is really our first major foray into trucking-intensive logistics operations, but Naples and Collier County sit at a good crossroads point, if you look between Miami and Tampa, and this could be one of those opportunities that leads to other logistics-type operations considering our area.”

Collier County uses incentives as a public-private partnership to foster growth and support successful ventures seeking to open, relocate or expand in the county. “We understand that a major barrier for companies looking to expand or relocate is cost—of space, equipment and training employees. We also know incentives are an important part of any site location decision,” according to incentives program information published on the Collier County Economic Development Office website.

In October 2020, Collier commissioners approved a contribution agreement with Uline to accept specific donations of land and improvements with an estimated value of about $6.6 million. Uline will receive a one-time reimbursement of about $575,000, an amount that was amended last summer after Uline decided it wanted to eliminate obligations for tax increment financing (TIF) credits. The company consistently avoids the use of taxpayer incentives when it develops distribution centers throughout North America.

Staff executive summary documents shared by Ed Finn, who oversees Collier’s corporate financial and management services, summarize additional aspects of the county’s agreement with Uline. The county agreed to “fast track” the Uline project in the enterprise zone and provide construction easements to the company.

Most of the tangible benefit to the county will come from Uline’s contributions to the new Paradise Coast Sports Complex. Uline will dedicate a 6-acre lake area, a 2.6-acre grass parking area and an acre for fitness and obstacle use to the county at no cost. The value of this dedication totals about $4.3 million. Uline also relocated City Gate Boulevard South within its acquired area at no cost to the county. The road connecting the north and south sections of City Gate Boulevard was renamed Uline Drive, which runs along the western edge of the company’s lengthy warehouse.

Uline’s new warehouse sits a short distance away from where Amazon opened a last-mile delivery station in June 2021 at Collier and Davis boulevards in East Naples. Of course, Uline’s expansive building is nearly nine times as large as Amazon’s nearby location.

“They are a major player nationally. It’s really like an honor for them to choose us and look at us for a place to put these types of operations,” Dalby says. “This is one of those classic instances where our county’s ability to step up and offer some incentives enabled us to kind of set us apart as a location—not just geographically for their operations, but also as a community that wanted the jobs and wanted the new industry sector to choose us.”

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