American Eagle Outfitters wanted to build a 402,000-square-foot distribution center in Lawrence's East Hills Business Park even after opposition groups organized petition drives and mounted visible campaigns, a company official said.
Then Ottawa came calling, drawing the anticipated $45 million deal to Franklin County.
"Nobody killed the deal," said Michael Fostyk, vice president for distribution at the Pittsburgh-based company. "We were very pleased with most of the people we dealt with in Lawrence. It was strictly a business, economic decision."
Instead of paying to start from scratch in the business park, American Eagle instead bought a vacant hardware-distribution building in Ottawa. The company paid less than $6 million for the building and land, Fostyk said, and plans to pay up to $5 million for an addition and another $16 million for equipment.
Public opposition in Lawrence didn't play a role, he said, other than to draw relocation options out of the woodwork.
"The process was so drawn out," Fostyk said Wednesday. "As one can imagine, we were inundated with offers, unsolicited, from everywhere else. People used to stand outside the commission meetings saying, 'Hey, things aren't going well. Come to our town.' "
Fostyk said the new center would supply American Eagle stores primarily west of the Mississippi River. The company currently has 556 stores, with plans for a total of 1,100 by the end of 2004.