Promoting the bicycling lifestyle in The Buckeye State
Specialized Bicycles Groveport Open House
Ohio was once home to the factories that produced some of the most recognized names in bicycles: Murray, Huffy, and others. With the exception of a few small custom frame-builders, there aren’t that many bicycles being manufactured in these parts any more. However, the bicycle industry is thriving here in Ohio.
Ohio and other parts of the Midwest enjoy a position in geography that makes us not more than a couple day’s drive from every population center in the eastern United States. That makes Ohio a good choice as a base for warehousing and distributing products made elsewhere around the world. Many of the most well-known names in today’s bike industry take advantage of this by having distribution centers located in Ohio. These include Raleigh USA (in Pataskala), Bianchi USA, Seattle Bike Supply (in Reynoldsburg, distributors of the Redline, Torker, and Lapierre bike brands), and Specialized.
Specialized is based in Morgan Hill, California. They operate a warehouse serving the western US from Salt Lake City, Utah. In December of 2010, Specialized moved its eastern distribution center from Grove City to Groveport, Ohio (both on the outskirts of Columbus), in order to expand their warehouse space and implement other features to make their distribution process more efficient. The company held a grand opening and open house reception on February 11, 2011, and I was among those from the local bike industry and media who were invited to attend.
I drove to the Groveport facility past row after row of mostly featureless buildings, I presumed most of which were in the same business of storing and distributing products. The Specialized building was at the end of the drive on which they are located; fortunately, they had signs and flags posted outside to let everyone know that we were in the right place. I walked in and was greeted by some of the staff, one of whom handed me a bag of schwag, which contained a Specialized Riders Club jersey, a water bottle, a book commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Stumpjumper mountain bike, a sticker, and copies of the Specialized 2011 road and mountain bike catalogs. The bag itself was a re-usable grocery bag (in Specialized red, of course).
I was immediately able to join one of the tours of the warehouse, which was led for my small group of three by Jared, one of the warehouse staff. Jared walked us through the stacks of bicycles, clothing, components, and accessories that were stored in rows of shelving units at least three, sometimes more, rows high. Jared explained that about one-half of the available space is used for bicycles, about one-quarter for what they call “equipment” (anything not a bike), and about one-quarter is currently unused.
The bicycles arrive on one side of the building, and are also shipped to bike stores back out from that same side, using either FedEx Freight or FedEx Ground. The equipment arrives on the other side, and is shipped back out on that side using FedEx Ground. Here’s the equipment side, where orders going to bike shops are packed up and prepared to be shipped out:
The warehouse area was about 63 degrees, but Jared explained that was for our benefit; it’s usually kept colder to save energy. The overhead lighting is controlled by motion sensors, so that lights are only activated when needed in an area of activity. Another energy-saving measure is the use of large industrial ceiling fans, which help to keep the warm and cool air circulating, cutting down on the amount of re-heating that needs to be done to the air (or re-cooling in the summer).
I asked Jared about the employees’ bike commuting habits; he explained that there were quite a few that went to work by bike in the old Grove City location, but now many of them live further away, plus with the cold weather and snow this time of year, there were not many people riding their bikes in. The access road to the industrial park is not very bike-friendly either, with a 55mph speed limit and little to no shoulder, much less any bike lane or trail. Once they get more settled in the new location and the weather improves, they hope to take steps to more actively promote bike commuting. I did notice that they had showers in the restrooms.
Back in the reception area (the staff break room), I enjoyed some refreshments and talked to some of the other guests. I spoke to Lynette Carpiet, a journalist with Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, the bike industry trade publication. She flew to Ohio just to cover this event; being based in southern California, she marveled at how anyone could think of riding in our winter weather!
I sidled up to a group of a few guys, and noticed that one of them was none other than Ned Overend, the mountain biking legend. I asked if it was okay to get a photo with him, and he obliged; he was quite friendly and down-to-earth. We chatted a bit, surprisingly not about his illustrious racing career, but about cycling advocacy. We said he was really impressed with all of the work various groups do all around the country to improve bike access and awareness.
The formal part of the event started after everyone had their chance to take the warehouse tour. Kim Peterson, Specialized’s National Director of Distribution, introduced Jesse Rogers, the manager of the Groveport distribution center in which we were sitting. Jesse is the oldest employee at Specialized, having run the Ohio distribution center from its various different locations since it was first established 29 years ago. He described how the process was run at the very beginning, and how it has evolved and become larger and yet more efficient over the years.
Other speakers included the eastern regional sales manager for Specialized, a representative from the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, a representative from the business development office of Groveport, and Ned Overend, who talked about how the feedback from professional racers sponsored by Specialized goes directly into the product design and development process. Finally, a drawing was held to give away a Specialized Roubaix road bike, and the winner was Matt Ford, an employee of one of the Bike Source stores.
For the final event, the group assembled outside the front door of the building for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Thank you to Specialized for their invitation to this event. You can see more photos in this slide show: