LITTLE ROCK — Food distributor Ben E. Keith announced Tuesday it will build a new $60 million facility in North Little Rock and add 74 jobs to its current operations in central Arkansas.
Company officials joined Gov. Mike Beebe and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Matt Erskine at a news conference at the state Capitol announcing the expansion. The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration is providing a $1.5 million grant for the project.
Beebe is providing $2.28 million from the Governor’s Quick Action Fund and $100,000 from his share of the state’s budget surplus for the expansion. The city of North Little Rock is providing $650,000.
Beebe said the investment will allow the company to retain 260 current jobs while adding 74 at an average wage of $33.75 an hour.
“They’re good jobs,” he said.
The governor said there had been “some trepidation” over whether the company would leave Arkansas for a different market.
“So we’re happy that they’re still here and that they’re still here even in a bigger way than they were,” he said.
Company President Mike Roach said the new 300,000-square-foot facility at the intersection of U.S. 70 and Interstate 440 will serve as the company’s mid-South regional headquarters.
Construction is expected to begin mid-summer and take 18-20 months. The existing facility at the Port of Little Rock will close when the new facility opens, Roach said.
Erskine said the project will boost economic growth in the area and called in “an investment in the future.” He also took the opportunity to reaffirm the Obama administration’s commitment to helping several Central Arkansas communities recover from last month’s devastating storms.
“As President Obama said on his visit last week, the federal government is going to do all we can. We’ll be here until we get these communities rebuilt,” he said.
Other state incentives Ben E. Keith is eligible to receive include an income tax credit based on the total payroll of new jobs; sales tax refunds on building materials, machinery and equipment associated with the project; and training assistance.
Ben E. Keith distributes food products and alcoholic beverages to Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Tennessee. Its presence in Arkansas dates to 1973, when it purchased Dillaha Fruit Company.