Written By Jennifer Noel
When they drive down Route 27 outside Westminster, passersby cannot help but notice the Random House distribution center, but many do not realize that they are only viewing a quarter of the 1.2 million square foot facility. And they may also not realize that books they have in their own homes, such as those by Dan Brown, Danielle Steele, Dean Koontz, Dr. Seuss and even President Obama, have passed through Random House’s 14.3 miles of conveyer systems.
But that is okay with Random House. The operation would prefer to remain unnoticed.
“We try to be good neighbors, but we don’t want to stick out,” said Robin Sutton, Vice President for the facility’s Human Resources division. “We go out of our way to be inconspicuous.”
Random House is the book division of Bertelsmann AG, an international organization with TV, book publishing and media services in more than 50 countries. Its headquarters is in New York City. The Westminster location is the firm’s largest fulfillment and distribution center. There is another, smaller, distribution center in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Considered the world’s largest trade book publisher, Random House has locations in 19 countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Australia, and Canada.
Random House is a quiet giant in Carroll County’s backyard, processing 750,000 publications a day, running 24 hours a day, five days a week. Books are shipped across the country and internationally as well, according to Annette Danek-Akey, Vice President of Fulfillment for both the Westminster and Crawfordsville locations.
The company distributes publications to several kinds of businesses including bookstores, wholesalers, cookware stores and many others.
Considered the world’s largest trade book publisher, Random House has publishing offices, distribution centers and printing plants in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Australia and Canada.
Including Dr. Seuss and The Da Vinci Code – currently among the publisher’s most popular books – the Westminster facility processes 40,000 individual titles at any given time including children’s books, cookbooks, fiction, and nonfiction.
Random House has been in Westminster for more than 40 years. It built its first building there in 1966. Its seventh was completed in 2002. The location also serves as the publisher’s operations center, housing its corporate finance unit, a national customer service center, and an information technology division.
“Westminster has a great, available workforce,” said Sutton. “We can be competitive and attract talented people who want to stay with us for a long time.”
Seventy-five percent of the 800 employees at Random House call Carroll County home. On average, employees stay with the company for 16 years, a length of time almost unheard of in the distribution industry.
Jim Welkos, Director of Human Resources and a Maryland native, attributes the length of tenure to the attention employees receive.
“We were recently the recipient of the Employer of the Year Award for Training and Development from the Carroll County Department of Economic Development, because we believe in the importance of continually educating our staff,” said Welkos. “We want them to continue to grow.”
Random House also boasts a diverse group of employees and was given a government citation for work with the NAACP.
“The foundation of what we do is education and development,” said Sutton. “We have evolved as a business and our employees have evolved with us.”
“So much of what we do affects our employees; we want them well taken care of.”
Random House also strives to invest a great deal of time in the Carroll County Community through various outreach programs and partnerships.
“We appreciate those people who support us in the community,” said Danek-Akey. “We try to be good citizens in the county as well.”
Annually, Random House partners with Carroll Community College for a book fair that serves as a fundraiser for student scholarships. The fair draws famous authors such as novelists Luanne Rice and R.L. Stine (sometimes called “the Stephen King of children’s literature”), among many others, to give talks and workshops. The partnership has continued to for 12 years.
Random House has also started an “Adopt-a-School” program for West Middle School and William Winchester Elementary. Thirty-five volunteer employees visit the schools to mentor and read to students during the school day.
Several members of Random House also serve on community boards and the company continually supports local businesses such as Carroll Hospital Center, literacy organizations, and fire houses. The company also participates in Relay for Life and other causes important to employees.
“We may be a giant, but we never sleep,” said Sutton.