WARREN Drink company to open center

Plans call for construction of a local production plant within a year after the distribution center opens.
WARREN -- The president of a Cleveland-area beverage company says its plans for a Warren distribution center are on the fast track, now that the firm has landed a soft-drink contract for more than 200 Giant Eagle supermarkets.
STAR Beverage president James McBryde said the Shaker Heights company is negotiating for distribution center space in Warren and expects to have a facility operating by the first week of January. He would not divulge the location, explaining that several sites are still under consideration and no lease has been signed.
McBryde acknowledged that the firm has been in talks with city officials for more than a year about starting an operation here. He said reorganization of STAR's top management and the newly inked pact to supply soft drinks for the 200-store Giant Eagle chain helped to nudge the project to the front burner.
STAR plans to close its Cleveland warehouse once the Warren center is up and running, and the Warren distribution center will be the storage center for all Giant Eagle stores, as well as Kroger and Top's, two other major STAR customers.
"I'd like to close that warehouse yesterday," McBryde said of the Cleveland facility, explaining that the building is inadequate for the company's needs. "We plan to make the Mahoning Valley our flagship area."
The Warren center will employ four people on a single shift at first, he said, but eventually will employ 14 working two shifts.
Giant Eagle has its own warehouses in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, so the Warren facility will be "perfect for them" because it's nearly equidistant from both, McBryde said.
STAR has production plants in Missouri and Georgia that produce eight soft-drink flavors under its STAR brand, and most of the product is shipped north to its Cleveland warehouse.
Production plant: McBryde said its new business will make it necessary for the company to open a production plant in Warren, with construction likely to begin about a year after the Warren distribution center opens. That plant will be designed to produce 450,000 cases of pop per year and, at full production, will employ 100.
Fred Harris, city safety-service director, said STAR wants to locate in the city's southwest side in a federally designated Historically Underutilized Business Zone.
Locating in a HUB zone will qualify the company to bid on about $2 billion in federal contracts set aside for HUB businesses, as long as it hires at least 35 percent of its employees from the surrounding neighborhood. Company officials have talked about moving $2.5 million in manufacturing equipment to Warren when its production plant opens there.
STAR is owned by two medical doctors, Merceda Perry and Arthur Boyd, both in the Cleveland area. McBryde said the company is negotiating for contracts with five or six other vendors that are equal in size to Giant Eagle.