What’s in a number?

Published 6:53 pm Sunday, September 7, 2008

The unemployment rate in the United States is at its highest level in five years.

According to reports published Friday, the unemployment rate rose to 6.1 percent, the highest since September 2003. American employers cut workers for the eighth straight month, leading to a staggering 605,000 jobs that have been lost so far this year alone.

It is a tough time for many workers, and the sound of the city creating 7,000 new jobs is music to their ears.

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That is precisely what officials from CenterPoint Properties have been promising the city of Suffolk through the development of the CenterPoint Intermodal Center – Suffolk.

CenterPoint, a Chicago-based development company, has proposed building a $325 million warehousing center to help handle the growing container traffic coming from the ports and through the region.

According to presentations, the center would work directly with the Port of Virginia, and could bring up to 7,000 jobs to the city.

But, how accurate is that number?

So far, it’s hard to tell.

According to a spokesperson for CenterPoint Properties, that number is just an estimate based on similar projects that have been completed in the past.

Take, for example, the CenterPoint Intermodal Center – Elwood, which the company opened outside of Chicago. The state-of-the-art intermodal and industrial business park features a 770-acre intermodal yard and has 12 million square feet capacity for industrial and distribution facilities.

Since opening, the facility has created 8,000 jobs and it is projected to bring in an additional 2,000 when it is completely built out.

The Suffolk center would be considerably smaller than the Elwood center; hence the employment numbers are projected almost a third less.

It is worth noting that not all of the jobs projected would be permanent jobs. A good percentage of the projections would consist of the short-term construction work necessary to build the facility.

Another point to consider when talking about the projections is that there has yet to be a formal study in Suffolk to get more specific numbers.

Also, some employment numbers would be decided based on the type of customers move into the center. If the center was to be used more for warehouse facilities, the number of employees would greatly differ than if the center would house more commercial facilities.

The CenterPoint project is far from being finalized, many details remain unconfirmed and an assortment of public hearings is still required before it is determined if CenterPoint will even find a home in Suffolk.

While the specifics of what CenterPoint could ultimately do are still yet to be determined, the projections give a hopeful look to the future of what could happen in today’s rough employment time.