John Deere leaving for McDonough

CONYERS -- After 30 years in Rockdale County, John Deere plans to relocate its distribution center to a newer facility in neighboring Henry County early next year.

In a statement issued by John Deere, the company said it will open a new regional distribution center in McDonough that would double the activity and inventory levels of the facility in Conyers.

Work continues on the new building, located west of McDonough off Ga. Highway 20. The company's press release said the facility will be fully operational by March.

John Deere moved into its warehouse and distribution center on Dogwood Drive in 1979. It had once served as a regional sales office for the Moline, Ill.-based company before a reorganization move about 10 years ago.

The Conyers facility, as well as the new facility in McDonough, serves as an emergency parts depot to more than 600 locations in the southeastern United States.

Glenn Sears, executive director of the Conyers Rockdale Economic Development Council, said John Deere did not notify his office of its plans to move. The company made its announcement of the move in a press release last month. Calls Friday by the Citizen to John Deere's corporate headquarters were not returned.

Sears said the impact on local employment would be miniscule since the new facility is nearby and employees would move with operations there.

Sears, who is a retired John Deere executive, said the number of people working at John Deere had dropped significantly over the years. John Deere had 200 to 300 employees in the early 1980s, but had cut that in half by the mid-1990s, Sears said.

"Because of the technology advancements, their total employment had gone down from 130 to 150 people to about 49," he said. "When they move this to the McDonough facility, I think because of the increase in volume they will have to hire more people."

That appeared to be the case. John Deere began placing employment ads this month online through the Henry Daily Herald in McDonough and other online employment Web sites.

Sears said CREDC is waiting for the facility to go on the market, but news of John Deere's move has drawn interest for companies on the lookout for office and warehouse facilities.

Sears said he could see the building, and its 40 acres, as potentially available for two separate operations -- corporate offices facing Interstate 20 and a distribution warehouse in the back.

"We have people interested in part of the facility once they put it on the market," Sears said. 'There's a lot under roof there. There's a lot of office space and a lot of warehouse space."