Driving home from church on a Sunday afternoon last April, local business executive Ross Kramer felt his frustration escalating.
Kramer, co-founder and chief executive officer of Listrak, had spent two-and-a-half years trying to find a site for a new corporate headquarters for the Lititz-based firm.
But he had yet to find something suitable.
So on the ride from Ephrata Community Church to their Warwick Township home, Kramer asked his wife and their two children to join him in asking for help.
The next day, a name popped into Kramer’s mind and stayed there. It was Jeff Tennis, chief executive officer of Sechan Electronics, who Kramer knew from their service on the Warwick Education Foundation board.
Kramer took the hint. He emailed Tennis about the 28 acres of land that Sechan owned at Millport and Buckwalter roads in Warwick Township.
It was perfect timing. Tennis replied that Sechan had just decided to sell the tract but had yet to list it. Lititz-based Sechan would be happy to sell the land to another local firm that would put it to good use, added Tennis.
Now, 10 months later, Listrak is proposing an $18 million headquarters on the site. If approved by the township, the project would consolidate what will be five offices in Lititz and Lancaster.
Kramer called the land “a gift from God.”
“Sometimes, as a Christian business owner, you think, ‘I can handle it on my own. I can do this myself.’ It’s interesting, once we gave it up to God, how he provided for us,” he added.
Room to grow
Listrak wants to build a 93,000-square-foot building on the land, zoned I-2, or campus industrial. The property is diagonal from Heart of Lancaster Regional Medical Center.
A fast-growing firm with 180 Lancaster County employees, Listrak envisions having about 300 Lancaster County employees when the building would be completed.
The company hopes that would happen in May 2017 or June 2017.
But the building would have room for 600 — which explains the building plan’s 592 parking spaces — to accommodate further growth.
Warwick Township will begin its review of the plan when the township Planning Commission meets Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. in the township office, 315 Clay Road.
Listrak has three offices here — its 529 E. Main St. headquarters in Lititz Borough plus two offices in the Granite Run Corporate Center in Manheim Township. Together, they give Listrak 33,000 square feet.
A third Granite Run office and a second Lititz Borough office, in space formerly used by Susquehanna Bank, are coming in 2016. These will bring another 16,000 square feet.
“We hired 94 people last year,” said Kramer. “I’m not sure if our growth rates are going to continue but the fact is, we’ve had to get a new office more times than there’ve been World Cups.
“We’re just looking to create a facility where we don’t have to continue to move.”
Consolidating Listrak’s Lancaster County workforce — the bulk of its 215 employees — would do more than end the perpetual search for extra space.
Having all of the local staff in a single building on a single floor would spur collaboration and productivity, said Kramer, 40, a Penn State University graduate.
Listrak wouldn’t fill the entire new building initially, but Listrak would let the spare space sit empty until it’s needed, rather than lease it to another business, he said.
Fueling Listrak’s urgent need for substantially more employees and space is substantially more business, as a decision seven years ago to tighten its focus continues to pay dividends.
The company posted a 38 percent increase in revenues in 2015 to $34.5 million. That followed increases of 33 percent in 2014, 70 percent in 2013 and 45 percent in 2012.
Listrak’s recent real estate transactions indicate that the company is confident its proposed new headquarters, about three miles from its current headquarters, will become a reality.
The company settled on its purchase of the site plus 97 transferable development rights (TDRs) in August, paying Sechan $3.0 million, according to courthouse records.
In a related move, Listrak sold its East Main Street headquarters to Ephrata-based Garman Builders in November for $1.8 million, courthouse records show.
“We wish (Listrak) well, but we’re going to miss them here in downtown Lititz,” said Karen Weibel, president of Lititz Borough Council.
What makes the Warwick Township tract the perfect parcel for Listrak?
Kramer explained that the site fulfills his two criteria. It’s big enough to accommodate a sizable building and it’s in the Lititz area, where Listrak has been since 1998.
“We wanted to stay in the Lititz area. There were opportunities in other places, but we think the Lititz area is really special,” said Kramer.
One special quality is the cluster of live-event firms based in Lititz, including industry leaders Clair Global, Tait Towers and Atomic Design. Kramer sees them and Listrak as kindred spirits.
All are growing thanks to their use of technological innovation, he said.
And that growth can offset recent job losses at traditional industries in the community, said Kramer, pointing to the 89 layoffs at Susquehanna Bank and the 130 jobs lost when a Wilbur Chocolate plant closed.
Lisa Riggs, president of the Economic Development Co. of Lancaster County, a nonprofit that promotes the county as a business location, hailed Listrak as a locally owned firm that’s expanding and investing here.
“This is a company that we hope and expect will be one of the core types of companies that defines Lancaster County’s economy in the future,” said Riggs.
A sister organization, EDC Finance Corp., a nonprofit that helps local firms get state and federal aid to expand, is helping Listrak apply for a $2 million state loan for the new facility.
Randy Johnston, an EDC Finance loan officer, said Listrak is a stellar performer in its field. Its products “have been demonstrated to bring significant value to their customers,” earning Listrak “an excellent reputation.”
Read the full article by Tim Mekeel here.