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Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., a manufacturer of fashionable men's clothes, confirmed Friday it will consolidate its warehousing operations in a distribution center in north High Point that will employ 200 to 300 people.

Company officials said the 540,000-square-foot distribution center, to be built off Tarrant Road, is to become fully operational in the fall of 1991. Project Engineer Al Aycock estimated the total cost of the warehouse at $20 million.The center will be built on a 69.5-acre tract in the Piedmont Centre business park by Haskell Construction Co. of Jacksonville, Fla., which will own the building and lease it to Polo. Records in the county Register of Deeds office indicate the seven acres of land was acquired for about $1.2 million.

The Polo Ralph Lauren distribution center is one of two giant warehouses expected to be built in Guilford County in the coming year by nationally known retailers. K mart, the nation's second largest retailer, is planning a 1.5 million-square-foot, $40 million center. It has an option on a 95-acre tract just east of Greensboro at U.S. 70 and Penry Road.

In comparison, the Sears, Roebuck and Co. distribution center on Lawndale Drive in northwest Greensboro is 2.5 million square feet.

Polo Ralph Lauren produces men's clothing for sale in upscale department and men's stores. The company also licenses women's clothing and cosmetics for sale under its name. Ralph Lauren, the company's chairman, is an internationally known designer.

Polo's headquarters are in New York, though most corporate operations are in Carlstadt, N.J., where it now has a distribution center. That center and a warehouse in Toccoa, Ga., will be phased out once the new High Point center is in operation.

Steve Wilson, Polo's general manager for distribution, said the company considered a number of East Coast sites before settling on the Piedmont Centre location. The deciding factor, he said, was the company's success with a smaller distribution center in Guilford County that opened this past April.

Wilson said employees in the New Jersey operations have been notified of the company's plans to eventually shut down the center there. That facility is unionized.

The company, he said, has been pleased with the quality of area workers and the local transportation network. The Triad is near most of the Carolinas apparel manufacturers who make Polo's products.

The 85,000-square-foot warehouse on Gallimore Dairy Road in what is known as the Green Point Business Park has been used as a distribution center for Polo's men's knit shirts. That warehouse also will be closed once the bigger facility is ready, Wilson said.

He said the ``vast majority' of workers at the new High Point center will be hired locally. He said the company would pay competitive wages, declining to be more specific.

The state Employment Security Commission said typical pay for warehouse workers in this area ranged from $6 to $6.50 an hour for materials handlers to $8 to $9 an hour for forklift operators.


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