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Food distributor to build NLR hub, add 80 jobs by ’16

By Jack Weatherly

This article was published December 6, 2013 at 12:55 a.m.

the-ben-e-keith-co-recently-opened-this-400000-square-foot-distribution-center-in-houston

The Ben E. Keith Co. recently opened this 400,000-square-foot-distribution center in Houston.

Ben E. Keith Co. has purchased 70 acres in North Little Rock at the northwest corner of Interstate 440 and U.S. 70 to build a 350,000-square-foot distribution center expected to open in early 2016.

The Fort Worth-based food-distribution company expects the project to cost $60 million and anticipates adding 80 employees when the facility opens, raising the company’s total Arkansas employment to 355.

In 1973, Ben E. Keith opened a facility in North Little Rock that serves customers across Arkansas, north Louisiana, west Tennessee and northwest Mississippi.

It later opened a second facility at the Port of Little Rock. Those Little Rock area facilities both will be consolidated within the new distribution center.

Mike Roach, president of Ben E. Keith, said in a prepared statement: “We are excited about enlarging our base of operations in Arkansas, and this new center will allow us to greatly expand our product line and better serve our thousands of valued clients in this market.”

Ben E. Keith, established in 1906, is the nation’s eighth-largest food-service distributor and has eight distribution centers serving 11 states.

The company bought the undeveloped acreage in North Little Rock from George Glover, owner of Glover Truck and Trailer Sales, for $1.75 million on Nov. 13, according to Pulaski County land records. Glover Truck and Trailer is catty-cornered from the Keith property on U.S. 70.

Rusty Mathis, general manager of the North Little Rock-based division, said Ben E. Keith explored relocating in Millington, Tenn., and Olive Branch, Miss ., both in the Memphis metropolitan area, which is a major distribution hub.

But, the company received an incentives package from the state to locate in Arkansas.

It received $2.27 million from the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund for site preparation and energy-efficiency measures, according to Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

The company also qualified for the Tax Back program in which it gets sales tax refunds on building materials, and taxable machinery and equipment.

It also qualified for Advantage Arkansas in which it will get a 1 percent state income tax credit for five years on the salaries of full time employees whose jobs are created as a result of the expansion.

North Little Rock, the North Little Rock Economic Development Corp. and money allocated through the Arkansas Legislature’s general improvement fund will provide roughly $400,000for public infrastructure work, and the company probably will qualify for a cheaper rate on electricity from the city, said Todd Larson, economic development executive director.

Also, North Little Rock and the state Highway and Transportation Department may help provide a traffic light on U.S. 70 off the I-440 northbound exit, if one is approved.

The company’s general distribution center is at 1200 Pike Ave. in North Little Rock, and it has a distribution center for Sonic Drive-ins at the Port of Little Rock, Mathis said.

Construction on the center is to begin in the spring. The facility will include a warehouse, administrative offices, a training center, a truck maintenance garage, a fueling station and a truck wash. The site also will allow room for future expansion.

“It is always exciting when a great company like Ben E. Keith decides to expand in North Little Rock,” Mayor Joe Smith said in a prepared statement. “We know we aren’t the only option for a business location, but we try to be the best option. When a company that has already done business with us decides to keep growing here, that is a great statement about the community.”

Front Section, Pages 1 on 12/06/2013

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Pacorabone says... December 6, 2013 at noon

Good job!!! Thank you for working hard and helping keep and increase work opportunities for all of us. Please continue recruiting businesses to stay and even re-locate here. We appreciate it!

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