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http://agromerchants.com/

Another cold-storage warehouse business is expanding to the Charleston region.

Atlanta-based Agro Merchants Group said it's leasing the refrigerated portion of the former Piggly Wiggly distribution center near Summerville for importers and exporters of beef, poultry and other product.

"We are extremely excited to offer a new, state-of-the-art solution for our customers that will provide them excellent access to the Port of Charleston, and a cost-effective alternative to move product into and through the Southeastern U.S.," said Chris Hughes, president.

The said its temperature-controlled space near Interstate 26 and Jedburg Road has enough space to store 14,000 pallets. It plans to open the 121,000-square-foot facility in August after making improvements valued at about $8 million.

The upgrades include the addition of a Department of Agriculture inspection room and eight blasting cells where fresh shipments from producers in the Carolinas and Georgia can be quickly frozen for export.

"That's very important, and we believe that's one of the value-added services we're going to offer there," Hughes said in an interview.

Piggly Wiggly built the warehouse in 1999. The Charleston-based supermarket chain announced in November it was closing the facility, two months after selling most of its area stores.

Agro Merchants was formed early last year. With financial partner Oaktree Capital Management, it operates more than 1.8 million square feet of refrigerated warehouse space.

The company held a job fair at the Summerville site in late May. Hughes said Agro Merchants expects to employ 55 to 70 workers when the warehouse is fully operational.

The business qualifies for about $1 million in state and local incentives, includes training and tax credits based on job creation, according to Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis.

Last week, California-based Lineage Logistics said it is reviving a stalled plan to build a large cold-storage warehouse in Palmetto Commerce Park. The North Charleston project was announced in 2012 but put on hold by a Nebraska company that Lineage acquired this year.

Also, the State Ports Authority is contributing $12 million to the expansion of a refrigerated warehouse on Remount Road in North Charleston, citing increased demand for freezer space.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.