By Eric Fetters HBJ Freelance Writer
EVERETT — In between Majestic Glove’s extra-tall warehouse shelves stacked with boxes of safety gloves, safety vests and related gear, a computer-guided forklift takes its operator to where an ordered item is stored.
Wires in the floor help the forklift navigate around the distribution center. When it reaches the location of an ordered item, the forklift lifts up its safety-harnessed operator, who then can grab what’s needed. Warehouse lights attached to motion sensors turn off when not needed.
It’s efficient, which is what Majestic Glove’s managers wanted when they decided to build a new corporate headquarters along the west end of W. Casino Road, within sight of Boeing’s Everett assembly complex. Construction started in March.
The overall space is about 40 percent larger than the company’s old building, but that doesn’t tell the whole story, said John Damon, vice president of Majestic Glove.
“There’s no comparison, because the old warehouse was four pallets high, and now we’re six pallets high.”
The ceilings in the new warehouse extend 36 feet up instead of the usual 24, allowing for the storage of 70 percent more product in the same amount of square footage. That reduced the amount of property needed for the building.
Designed by Seattle architect Lance Mueller and developed by Panattoni Development, the building also includes big windows and an exterior that mirrors the company’s colors. In November, it won the award for 2012 Industrial Development of the Year from the Washington State Chapter of the NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association.
“I think it projects a very good image — that we built something that not only looks good but is so functional,” said Todd Gorrebeeck, Majestic Glove’s national sales manager. “We’ve been able to streamline processes like nobody’s business.”
Originally founded in the Netherlands, where it still has a sister company, Majestic Glove came to the Puget Sound area more than 30 years ago. Since 2000, it has been based in the industrial corridor of south Everett.
“It’s very central for us, and it’s a business-friendly environment here,” Damon said of Everett.
The company’s customers include construction firms, the petroleum and chemical industries, laboratories, metal and shipbuilding companies — any industry that routinely requires safety gear or protective clothing that can withstand chemicals, hazardous materials or even fire.
The move from its former office and warehouse building on Hardeson Road to its new 112,000-square-foot building was compelled by the company’s growth, Damon said. In the past eight years, the business has tripled in size, he said.
Employing about 45 people directly, Majestic Glove designs and tests its products at its headquarters while manufacturing takes place overseas. A small production area in the new building can customize products.
Damon credited his company’s long period of growth to employees who provide good customer service and Majestic Glove’s reputation for quality.
“It’s all about fit, form and function,” Damon said, noting that the company’s president, Hugo Kruiniger, is a stickler for details. “For example, the sewing on our products is more precise, so it lasts longer. That helps to separate us from our competition.”
Majestic Glove’s building also includes extra space that it’s offering for lease to companies that need manufacturing or warehouse room. Already, some of it is being leased at least temporarily.
Gregg Riva, a senior vice president with Colliers International who represented Majestic Glove in the real estate transactions for its new headquarters, said most landlords with local industrial space weathered the past few years much better than property owners with office-only space to lease.
For example, in the third quarter of this year, more than 13 percent of office space in the area that includes the south half of Snohomish County was empty. For industrial and so-called flex space, which can accommodate both offices and industrial uses in one building, that vacancy rate was 7.4 percent, according to Colliers statistics.
Riva added average lease prices for industrial space in the south Everett area also has stayed higher than in other Puget Sound markets during the recession. Some of that has been due to demand for space from Boeing suppliers who want to be close to the Everett airplane factory.
“Boeing has an effect, of course, but here are plenty of other businesses up there that are not Boeing-related that take advantage of the space up there,” Riva said.
Also, unlike office and retail spaces that can be relatively easy to move in or out of depending on economic conditions, warehouse and manufacturing space doesn’t tend to be affected quite as quickly, said Tom Hoban, chief executive officer of the Coast Group of Companies, an Everett-based commercial real estate firm.
“Both the industrial and apartment sectors have held up reasonably well because they’re tied to core functions,” said Hoban, whose firm manages more than $1 billion in properties. “People still need a place to live and things break and need to be replaced through manufacturing.”
Hoban said there is a ray of hope for the office space market, where demand waned dramatically during the recession. Vacancy rates for office space in the Snohomish County area are estimated at 13 percent or more, depending on the specific area.
“There’s finally some firming up in that sector, especially in the south end of Snohomish County,” Hoban said, adding that it will take longer for real improvement to reach Everett’s office market.