ArcBest announces 975 new jobs, new HQ in Fort Smith


FORT SMITH — ArcBest plans to build a new corporate headquarters at Chaffee Crossing in Fort Smith to support the creation of 975 jobs in the area through 2021, officials announced Friday afternoon.

ArcBest, which changed its name from Arkansas Best Corp. on May 1, is under contract with the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority to buy a 40-acre tract of a section of Chaffee Crossing in Fort Smith.

Plans are to break ground this fall and complete the building in late 2015 or early 2016. The total investment by the company, the city of Fort Smith and the state of Arkansas is expected to be $30 million.

Grant Tennille, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said ArcBest’s lead in development of a high-tech logistics industry contains “enormous science” and breaks down the perception of the company as simply a trucking entity.

“In the basement of the facility that they will be building out in Chaffee Crossing there will be one of the most sophisticated data centers in the state,” Tennille said. “These are great jobs that will provide a more-than-middle-class lifestyle for the people who take them.”

Tennille said the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith as well as the universities in Fayetteville and Little Rock are developing programs in the data analytics field. Following the Great Recession, Tennille said, the “jobs we’re adding back are better jobs than the ones we lost.”

ArcBest President and CEO Judy R. McReynolds said the company expects to grow total revenue to $3 billion by the end of 2015, with $1 billion coming from its emerging businesses such as Panther Premium Logistics, U-Pack and ArcBest Technologies. In 2013, ArcBest company revenue grew by 11 percent and generated $2.3 billion.

“Our decision to build a new facility in Fort Smith for the ArcBest and ABF Logistics companies underscores our long commitment to this area, and we are grateful for the commitment from the city and the state to help us meet our needs,” McReynolds said.

Tim Allen, CEO and president of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the chamber served as the direct liaison between ArcBest, the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority and the AEDC in development of the plans and tax incentives.

“The ArcBest announcement is a testament to Fort Smith’s diverse economy,” Allen stated in a news release. “ArcBest is expanding in Fort Smith because they are committed to the River Valley, as they have been for more than 90 years.”

Two AEDC tax incentives were used for the project, including the Create Rebate that is expected to save the company between $16 million and $19 million over the course of 10 years, Tennille said. ArcBest will get a 3.9 percent rebate on its net new payroll for full-time, permanent employees.

Another incentive called Tax Back reimburses the company on sales and use taxes for building materials.

Walter Echols, ArcBest vice president, said the latest in energy conservation building materials would be used and solar technology is being evaluated for the new headquarters. A designer and construction contractor have not yet been chosen, Echols added. The facility will include about 600 parking spaces for employees and visitors.

ArcBest’s corporate and administrative functions, as well the company’s ABF Logistics personnel, will relocate to the new office building. The new facility is expected to be smaller than the 195,000-square-foot corporate center on Old Greenwood Road. ABF Fright System is expected to remain at the existing facility along with ArcBest Technologies, the company’s IT solutions group.

David Humphrey, ArcBest vice president of investor relations, noted that ArcBest employs about 1,200 people in Fort Smith, and 11,420 nationwide.

The transportation and logistics company has leased supplemental office space locally since early 2012. The expansion has been in the planning stages for at least six months, Chaffee Crossing Director of Marketing Lorie Robertson said.

“You really kind of wish all days could be like today,” Tennille said at the announcement Friday. “In two days we’ve had two great announcements in Fort Smith. Exactly the kind of announcements we like best. The best way to grow the economy is partner with your existing businesses, help them find ways to reinvest in the community, and that’s certainly what ArcBest is doing here today.”

Georgia-Pacific announced Thursday it is investing $40 million in new technology for its GP-Dixie Products facility at 4411 Midland Blvd. in Fort Smith.

Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders said the ArcBest investment is a “key part” of Fort Smith’s future.

Tennille said he expects to return to Fort Smith by the end of the year for another major economic development announcement.

ARCB stock closed Friday at $42.77, down slightly from $43.78 Thursday.