Argos played host to a very special guest on Friday 4 November, when Prime Minister Tony Blair officially opened the new site in Darlington.
Tony Blair attended the ceremony to unveil a plaque and officially open the Argos warehouse on the 38 acre site situated on the Faverdale East Business Park. Welcomed by Robin Wall, Director for Argos Direct , the Premier Tony Blair was joined by local MP Alan Millburn, Darlington Borough Councillors and Argos senior managers. The ceremony included a tour of the facility which allowed the Prime Minister to meet staff and key people from Argos and Darlington Borough Council. Around 80 people attended.
Mr Blair said "I am delighted to officially open the site, the sheer size and scale of this warehouse is 'very Argos'. I congratulate everyone for their co-operation; 'the team makes it"
The 737,000 sq ft distribution centre is home to Argos Direct, Argos' home delivery business. When fully staffed the warehouse is expected to create around 700 jobs including office administration, IT support, warehousing, driving and maintenance. It is the third regional distribution centre for Argos Direct, serving the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Robin Wall, Director for Argos Direct, said:
"Just two years ago we reached the point where we knew we needed to add further warehouse capacity to service our rapidly expanding home delivery operation, which currently is making 25000 deliveries a week. So it's with great pleasure that we are officially celebrating the opening of our site today and taking the opportunity to thank everyone involved in planning, building, developing and getting this site operational and working. It's been a fantastic success and the 500 local people that are now already part of our team will make a significant difference in allowing us to continue to grow our business."
Argos first expressed an interest in the site, which already had the benefit of outline planning permission for a business park, in February 2004. Given consent in June 2004 by Darlington Borough Council the scheme proved a challenge for the project team, because of the tight timescales involved.
Argos' aim was to have a fully operational, 24 hour distribution facility by summer 2005, with 91 loading docks and 5 level access doors.
John Williams, Leader of Darlington Council said:"I am delighted to welcome this development by such a large and prestigious company to Darlington. The opening of this warehouse will provide a huge boost to the economy of the town and has created hundreds of new jobs. I am proud that Darlington Council was able to work with Argos to ensure the company came to the town and that their move here was carried out efficiently. The fact that Darlington has attracted such a major company to base one of its warehouses here shows what a dynamic town this is. Darlington is a great place to live, work and relocate business and I am sure this development will act as a magnet for other major firms to move here."
During a standard site investigation at Faverdale, an extensive settlement of Iron Age 'roundhouse' structures that were probably associated with a small village were discovered. There is also evidence of settlement activity during the Roman period, with a possible military connection. The archaeological open day in September, 2004 attracted hundreds of visitors keen to see the site and excavations including beads; tweezers; a Roman tegula; quernstones, used for grinding cereals and an array of pots and pottery.
Supply chain management company Exel will manage the Faverdale site on Argos' behalf, Exel manage Argos Direct's other regional distribution centres in Bedfordshire and Staffordshire.