SUFFOLK, VA. -- CVN Companies Inc., one of the nation's largest television-shopping and mail-order companies, plans to open an operation in Suffolk that would create about 400 jobs, city officials announced last week.

The Minnesota-based company said it plans to open a 500,000-square-foot, $20 million center in the Wilroy Industrial Park.

In discussions with Suffolk, CVN officials have indicated that if the first phase of the project is successful, the firm will go into a second construction phase expanding the operation to 1 million square feet of space and creating even more jobs.

The expansion would include a telemarketing center where hundreds of telephone operators would take customer orders.

CVN Companies was formed last month when Cable Value Network and its parent organization, COMB Co., reorganized.

COMB, which stands for Close Out Merchandise Buyers, was incorporated in 1968. A discount merchandiser, COMB sells to wholesale and retail clients through a nationwide mail-order operation.

"Our company has been growing very, very rapidly," said Grant Oppegaard, senior vice president of operations for CVN. "We approached the East Coast with the idea that this is going to be our largest, and probably our main, distribution center."

Oppegaard said that, four years ago, his company logged $30 million in sales; last year, volume was $250 million.

CVN Companies intends to make Suffolk its East Coast "fulfillment center," handling orders from both its TV and mail-order customers. The firm now ships from Minnesota and Colorado.

The company considered sites in North Carolina and other states, Oppegaard said, but settled on Virginia because of its "probusiness climate ... and the outstanding efforts of state, regional and especially your local officials. They probably did more to get us into Suffolk than any other factor."