MULBERRY -- Crawford County came together Wednesday to celebrate a new business expected to bring about more development in the River Valley.
Hundreds of people turned out for the opening of Compass Cold Storage's facility, which is designed to maintain temperatures from 40 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Cold Compass website.
Mayor Gary Baxter said Tuesday the company, at 507 Industrial Park Drive off U.S. 64, will have a significant economic impact for the city.
"Even though a cold storage does not employ a large number of people, it employs people at a really high wage, and so the people are doing very well there," Baxter said.
Baxter also said he believes the cold storage facility will probably be a catalyst for other "peripheral-type" businesses to locate in Mulberry's industrial park, such as dry warehousing, instigating further economic development in the area. He said Compass Cold complements American Vegetable Soybean and Edamame, a food production company already in the industrial park that uses cold storage.
"This is what I call the cornerstone for our industrial park because it is the largest facility and it is very prominently visible from the highway and the access is so very, very good right off of Interstate 40 at Exit 20," Baxter said.
Ti Cold, a construction company in Melbourne, Fla., spearheaded the design and development of the new building. A news release from the company states Compass Cold will have the capacity to support food wholesalers and retailers, as well as food manufacturing customers, in central and Northwest Arkansas.
"With this new facility Compass Cold will be able to offer their clients third party logistics services (3PL)," the release states.
"As a public refrigerated warehouse the company can store the inventory of its clients with the ability to pick, pack and ship the client's products directly from the facility providing an option to fulfill orders quickly and efficiently."
Doug Bowen and Darren Winstead, co-owners of Compass Cold, said Wednesday the event was to mark the company's completion of the first phase of a three-phase project to build a cold storage facility in Mulberry.
"We've always envisioned, like, a half a million square feet, but that'll be in the future," Winstead said. "We can't give a date or time when that's going to come to fruition, but definitely we have already seen that the need of a bigger building in this area needs to be here."
Bowen and Winstead said the first phase of the facility encompasses about 70,000 square feet and can hold about 9,000 pallets of poultry product. The square footage includes space for offices, a shipping receiving dock, a support area and convertible freezer cooler rooms, according to a floor plan provided at the opening.
Bowen said the space also includes technology to "blast freeze" about 250,000 pounds of protein per day, taking it from fresh to freezing temperatures in about 18 to 22 hours.
Bowen and Winstead said 15 people have been hired to work at the facility for a single shift. Compass Cold will be able to start storing product today.
The duo are also the owners of Doug's Produce Trucking, a trucking company also based in Mulberry's industrial park. Compass Cold is a sister company to Doug's Produce, according to Bowen.
Winstead said work on the second phase of the project -- which the floor plan states will bring the facility up to about 142,160 square feet and 18,500 pallet positions total -- began two to three months ago. Construction will completed in August or September and result in about 15-30 more jobs being created depending on the number of shifts the Compass Cold adds.
The phase will include additional freezer and dock space, according to the floor plan.
Bowen and Winstead said the first two phases of the project in total are set to cost about $50 million to build. They couldn't give a timeline for construction for the third phase.
Aside from Winstead, Bowen and Baxter, others who spoke during Wednesday's grand opening included state Reps. Chad Puryear, R-Hindsville, and Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren, and state Sen. Jim Petty, R-Van Buren, along with representatives of Ti Cold.
Guests also had the opportunity to participate in guided tours of the facility.
Compass Cold Storage is 65 miles from Northwest Arkansas, 137 miles from Tulsa, Okla.; 139 miles from Little Rock; 201 miles from Oklahoma City; 266 miles from Memphis, Tenn.; 297 miles from Dallas/Fort Worth; and 289 miles from Kansas City, Mo.
Source: Compass Cold Storage