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DirectAnswer expands in Capon Bridge

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By MARLA PISCIOTTA
For The State Journal

CAPON BRIDGE — DirectAnswer, a 22-year-old fulfillment business out of Oxon Hill, Md., has expanded to West Virginia and is leasing a 33,000-square-foot building in the Capon Bridge Tech Park located just off Smokey Hollow Road north of Route 50.

The contract between the Hampshire County Development Authority and the fulfillment business, owned and operated by Karen Cuppett Piontkowski, was signed earlier this month and ratified Nov. 13.

Piontkowski said negotiations have been ongoing for some time and have come to fruition within the past month — just in time for the busy holiday shopping season.

"We've already started the process of moving in," Piontkowski said. "What my company does is process orders for people who sell things on the Internet."

Piontkowski said the current desired trend in shopping is direct marketing either by mail, phone, fax, email or from a website.

The way this purchasing works is a consumer goes online to a specific shopping area, be it clothing, shoes or other items.

The consumer then enters how many of an item he or she wants to purchase, including the size, color and so forth and puts the order in a shopping cart.

At the end of the "shopping" the order is totaled and generally a question regarding shipping is asked prior to obtaining credit card information. When the order is complete, it is transported immediately to the shipper.

And then DirectAnswer comes into the picture.

"That is when the magic starts," Piontkowski said.

Her company removes the product from inventory housed in her warehouses, packs it and ships it to the consumer.

At the same time, DirectAnswer keeps records for the product owner.

"We process the order, process the credit cards, analyze sales to produce figures on best products, least popular, and we provide all the accounting data for our clients to post to their general ledgers," Piontkowski said. "The client is our boss."

The services offered, Piontkowski said, are extremely helpful to small new companies just getting started.

DirectAnswer recently secured two new clients, one dealing with sunglasses and the other with socks.

"That is one of the reasons we needed more space," she said.

The 33,000-square-foot building in the Capon Bridge Tech Park is more than sufficient in size, and Piontkowski said there is room at the park for expansion.

"I would love to employ at least 50 people in the next five years," Piontkowski said.

She said the salaries offered at DirectAnswer are competitive and the company offers better than average benefits. 

Piontkowski's experience in the fulfillment business began with AB&C Group, where she served as senior vice president from 1981 to 1989. AB&C was a fulfillment center that began in Virginia and expanded to Ranson with clients such as AOL and the National Rifle Association, with estimated annual revenue of well over $100 million and more than 500 employees.

Piontkowski said historically she takes ambitious people who may not have formal education or college degrees and trains them.

Most of DirectAnswer employees have worked for Piontkowski for more than 10 years.

"That is why I'm not closing the Oxon Hill, Md., facility," she said.

The company's warehouse in Waldorf, Md., will be closed, however.

"We will mirror our center we now have in Waldorf with new hires out of West Virginia," Piontkowski said.

To contact DirectAnswer, email kcpiontkowski@directanswer.com.

The Hampshire County Development Authority has also been working with Global Portfolio Development.

Kris Domich, managing director of GPD said his company has raised $90 million to build a data center facility. The 25,000 square-foot data facility would encompass 24 acres at the Capon Bridge Tech Park.

Domich said the facility would be set up into pods depending on tenants needs. The authority approved extending GPD's, option on the land for one year, which cost the company $2,500.

Domich told the authority the economic opportunities of moving to Capon Bridge Tech Park were great. He estimated that 200 construction jobs and 30 to 50 permanent jobs would be available when the construction is complete.