‘Morning News’ to Build South Dallas Plant in Fall

By: Jim Rosenberg

Belo Corp. announced Wednesday that The Dallas Morning News plans to build a distribution and production center in southern Dallas. It called the project “one of Belo’s largest capital investments” in the city.

Total cost for land, land improvements, construction, and equipment is estimated at $100 million over a five-year period. Publisher and CEO Jim Moroney said the Morning News outgrew its North Plant, in Plano, and needs another to support distribution and production.

The project, said Belo, awaits approvals by the city council and by the county of “standard economic development incentives related to building and land improvements.”

To be erected in the Southport Center Development Project, within the only Enterprise Zone inside city limits, the plant will occupy land purchased by Belo a number of years ago. The site faces Interstate 20, very close to its intersection with Interstate 45, at the city’s far southern limits. In the late 1990s, J. William Cox, then Morning News Senior Vice President for Administration/Operations, called the site “ideally located for transportation purposes.” Moroney said the enterprise zone and “associated economic incentives” from the city and county “make this an especially attractive location.”

The plant’s operation is expected to require an approximately 160 full-time newspaper positions — filled primarily by employees relocated from facilities in Plano and Arlington, according to Belo.

Morning News operations and administration executives did not immediately return calls, and production managers could not be reached immediately for information on the plant’s size and equipment.

The Morning News retained The Beck Group for project planning and development. The architect of record will be the Austin Media Group, the joint venture of two of The Austin Co.’s operations and Aecom’s Chicago-based McClier Corp. A general contractor has not been selected.

Following initial site work, construction for the South Plant’s first phase is scheduled to begin this fall. Operations are expected to start in late 2006, when Sunday preprint packaging in Plano will relocate to the South Plant. The new packaging operation for the Sunday edition calls for collating and cart-loading, in which up to 90 freestanding inserts will be gathered in plastic-wrapped bundles.

Later phases now in planning for execution through 2009 include moving the paper’s commercial printing operations from Arlington, adding a newspaper distribution center, expanding press operations, and installing an automated storage and retrieval system for preprints.

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