HEBRON, Ky. -- Construction is complete on DHL's latest expansion at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, but don't expect much fanfare surrounding its conclusion. Peak season is just around the corner for the international cargo giant, and there's no time to celebrate.
The $108 million project, among other improvements, adds 16 parking gates to accommodate wide-body aircraft. These spaces officially opened for operation Oct. 31 and expanded DHL's footprint at the airport by 29 percent.
The company initially said it would hire 50 new agents to manage the extra demand. Plans now call for a total of 250 to handle the influx over the holidays -- and beyond.
A job fair is scheduled 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, to kick-start that process. It's the first time DHL will open its hub, located at 236 Wendell Ford Boulevard, Erlanger, to prospective employees. This will, officials hope, give those hiring efforts an extra boost.
"For all the local companies, this becomes the prime time for hiring," said Joanie Arias, vice president, DHL, CVG. "We do have a good pipeline, but we're looking to increase those numbers because we're expecting to see some record volume growth for our peak night at the hub this year. We anticipate our volumes are going to continue to grow."
DHL employs around 2,400 people at CVG. A bulk of the newly created positions are for loading and offloading aircraft and transporting containers back and forth within the facility. The company has also invested more than $281 million locally since 2009.
In 2012, a $47 million expansion included a new 193,000-square-foot large-sort facility, and in 2014, a $46 million investment helped upgrade its small-sorting equipment, which created 130 new jobs.
The latest expansion was largely driven by international e-commerce growth, Arias said, including fashion, consumer electronics and media products. E-commerce volume in Asia Pacific, already the world’s largest business-to-consumer e-commerce market, is expected to nearly double by 2017. The growth outlook for Latin American is also strong.
The CVG hub -- one of only three in the world for DHL -- sits at the heart of its U.S. network; flights connect customers to more than 220 countries and territories across the globe.
"It was one of the biggest factors … We were pretty much land-locked in terms of flights because we were 100 percent full on the ramp," Arias said. "We will have anywhere from 48-50 aircraft a day during the peak season -- in and out -- and this is going to give us the longitude to handle that."
Since peak season is fast approaching -- Arias said volumes will increase this month -- the ramp's opening likely won't be celebrated publicly, or not until next year, even though construction wrapped ahead of schedule. And if any other projects are in the pipeline near-term, she isn't saying. But, she added, there is still room to grow. The company utilizes 147 acres for airplane parking alone.
Last December, officials signed a 14-year contract extension that keeps DHL here until 2045. Negotiations with CVG's team had been ongoing for months.
"Our partnership with DHL is one of our most key and important partnerships," CVG CEO Candace McGraw has said.
The airport, for example, just celebrated its best September ever in terms of landed cargo weight and ranks as the ninth largest cargo airport in North America, largely due to DHL. "Their success is our success," Arias said.
"There is capacity here for us in the future," she added. "Currently, we're just looking to leverage the investment (we just made) and the $281 million (spent) over the last seven years. We'll look to capitalize that, and then we'll take a look and see where we are at."