Dietz & Watson Inc., a 68-year-old Philadelphia producer of deli meats, is opening a distribution center in Delanco, where the company could eventually relocate its headquarters.

The distribution center will employ 100 when it is in full operation in several months.

President Louis Eni said yesterday that the company had been renting cold-storage facilities for several years, raising operating costs and making it hard to consolidate orders for supermarket chains and other customers.

"This will not only save the company money, it will also enable us to serve customers more effectively," said Eni, whose grandfather founded Dietz & Watson in 1939. He said revenue of the privately owned company had been growing 5 percent to 7 percent annually.

Dietz & Watson, which started moving into the new facility last week, employs 850, mostly at meat-processing plants in Philadelphia and Baltimore and at a cheese plant in Corfu, N.Y. The consolidation of distribution will involve no layoffs, Eni said.

Eni declined to disclose the price for the 266,000-square-foot building or how much was invested to install refrigeration equipment. Half of the space will be rented to other companies for cold storage, he said.

The Burlington County Board of Freeholders said in a news release yesterday that it had authorized a $2 million interest-free loan for the project. The loan still needs approval by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

"This is a huge lift for the county, and especially for the riverfront area," said Freeholder Aubrey A. Fenton, who oversees Economic Development and Regional Planning.

"Dietz & Watson is a well-known company with a popular brand. We're extremely pleased they decided to call Burlington County home."

"Right now, what it's going to be is our distribution center," Eni said. "The rest of the story hasn't happened yet. We don't know yet if we're going move our headquarters."

Contact staff writer Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or