One of the biggest buildings in Franklin County is getting bigger in preparation for the new employees who will soon work from the facility.

The nearly half-a-million-square-foot Rawlings Sporting Goods Distribution Center in Washington is getting a 150,000-square-foot warehouse addition, according to Ben McIntosh, Rawlings’ vice president of distribution and logistics.

The more than $10 million addition is in response to Rawlings’ purchase of Easton Diamond Sports LLC in October 2020. All of Easton’s inventory has been shipped from its old distribution center in Indianapolis to Washington, necessitating the expansion, McIntosh said. The addition will be high-bay warehouse space where more product can be stored, freeing up space for continued warehouse modernization.

“We’re always excited to see businesses grow and expand in Washington,” said Sal Maniaci, the city’s community and economic development director. “Rawlings has been here a long time, and this expansion hopefully shows their commitment to the city.” 

Rawlings plans to hire 80 to 100 local workers to fill full- and part-time positions to handle the increased work load. McIntosh said all positions are hiring for first and second shift, but warehouse skills like forklift certification are attractive in applicants. He said walk-in applicants are welcome. The company already is shorthanded because of worker shortages, and with the extra inventory, “we’ve got to do the volume now,” Rawlings Distribution Manager Tommy Strubberg said. 

Staff size fluctuates, but McIntosh said the company currently employs about 180 workers. He said when the hiring to fill mostly full-time positions is finished, the company could employ as many as 300 workers.

To help fill the posts, Rawlings is increasing wages for all of its full- and part-time staff, with the starting hourly wage increasing to $18 an hour, according to HR Manager Brad Chilton.

McIntosh said after the Easton purchase, Rawlings hired a consultant to determine the feasibility of adding on and continuing to work out of the Washington location versus alternatives such as splitting the inventory between distribution centers on the coasts or moving to a different location. The results of the study showed that staying in Washington made the most sense, he said. The leadership team and solid workforce in Washington, as well as the proximity to the company’s main headquarters in Town and Country, meant that moving didn’t make sense.

“It has been our home for 20 years,” McIntosh said. “It’s going to be our home for the next more than 20, hopefully.”

With the addition, Rawlings signed a 10-year lease extension with its landlord, Hollingsworth Capital Partners, a move McIntosh said deepens Rawlings’ roots in Washington.

Hollingsworth tapped steel warehouse specialist ARCO Building Systems, which is based in St. Louis, to build the addition.

Rawlings is waiting on a permit to clear, but McIntosh said the company hopes to break ground on the addition in February, with work scheduled to be finished by October.