VINELAND - RLS Logistics, a refrigerated storage and transportation company, is building a new freezer warehouse at the Millville Airport Commerce Center.
The 56-foot-tall warehouse is one of the few new commercial projects to see construction in South Jersey since the 2008 recession.
RLS Logistics is based in Newfield, Gloucester County, but has a 1.6 million-cubic-foot warehouse in Vineland. The company also has storage or packaging space in Gloucester County; Pittston, Pa.; and Mount Laurel.
"It's a family-owned, third-generation business. We store and ship frozen food for all kinds of clients," said John Pluciennik, vice president of corporate development.
This includes ready-to-bake breads and frozen fruits and vegetables that are shipped nationwide to customers such as Costco Wholesale.
The business is operated by brothers Tony Leo, CEO of warehousing, and Russell Leo, CEO of the transportation group.
The company has outgrown its existing warehouse space, Pluciennik said.
It hired Vineland contractor Stanker & Galetto to build the warehouse, which will have heated floors to keep the concrete from buckling in the zero-degree atmosphere.
"When you have a freezer building, you don't want the ground to freeze under it. If it does, the foundations could heave. So the technology we're using is to put a warm slab below the insulation," President Peter Galetto Jr. said.
This keeps the ground from freezing, but does not let warmth seep into the building, he said.
The project represents one of the first major commercial buildings Stanker & Galetto has built since the recession, he said.
"Most of our opportunities in the past five years have been renovations or modifications to existing buildings," he said. "To start a building from the ground up is noteworthy."
Galetto said available commercial space is starting to dry up in South Jersey, which likely will lead to more construction in 2014.
"We're seeing a better year ahead of us for commercial construction," he said.
Refrigerated warehouse space costs about $120 per square foot compared to just $20 per square foot for traditional dry storage, Pluciennik said.
"It's like a refrigerator. It has what we call a vapor barrier. You can't let air leak in or out or you'll get ice building up," Pluciennik said.
Workers started erecting structural steel in late December on the sprawling 8-acre site. The warehouse will be designed to offer expansion room if the company needs it, he said.
"We hold inventory for a month to a month-and-a-half," he said. "The most costly component for the logistics is transportation."
Once completed this spring, the new warehouse will provide about 10 to 12 new jobs in Cumberland County, he said.
The warehouse is taller than most to take advantage of safer, more-stable forklifts that can reach that high, he said. Cameras built into the lift can read the bar codes so the operators can choose the right pallets, he said.
"The only reason buildings are getting taller is because equipment is getting more sophisticated. A forklift five years ago couldn't go that high and still be stable," he said.
The company's expansion is a good sign for the region's economy, he said.
"The economy is on an upturn in food service. Not many people have warehouse space left. It's a good sign that manufacturers are building inventory," he said. "They believe in their sales."
Contact Michael Miller:
Location: West Forest Grove, Vineland
Owners: Russell Leo and Tony Leo, of Gloucester County