Private-Public Funds Bolster Plan for Ben E. Keith Foods Expansion in Arkansas

May 13, 2014

Gov. Mike Beebe at Tuesday's Ben E. Keith announcement. Company President Mike Roach is at far left, and company General Manager Rusty Mathis is at far right.
Credit Lee Hogan / Arkansas Business

Ben E. Keith Foods said it will spend $60 million to transfer operations from two existing facilities in Central Arkansas to a new larger facility, adding 74 jobs to an existing workforce of 260.

State and federal officials Tuesday touted additional investments from the government as a primary impetus for the development of a Mid-South Regional Headquarters for distribution in North Little Rock.

Matt Erskine with the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration said federal investment focused on energy related infrastructure, such as generators, was only given after the administration determined Arkansas would capitalize on the investment.

“Everything we do at EDA is a co-investment, it’s not free money. This was no exception because the EDA is being matched by $650,000 from North Little Rock representing that solid buy in and skin in the game by the community. According to the city the investment will help to create or retain 350 jobs and generate more than $60 million in private investment,” said Erskine.

Erskine said the infrastructure investment may also serve to attract additional business interest in the area along the intersection of Highway 70 and Interstate 440.

Governor Mike Beebe said a combination of $1.5 million in federal funds and nearly $2.3 million dollars from the state helped guarantee the food service product company chose to expand in Arkansas and not elsewhere.

“The Quick Action Closing Fund has been a critical economic development tool that puts Arkansas in a more competitive position with our sister states to be able to retain, expand, and/or attract business and industry,” said Beebe.

Ben E. Keith President Mike Roach said without over $4 million in state and federal funds, the company likely would have stayed in the state and even created a new facility, but not at the same scale.

“We would have had to probably have a smaller facility that wouldn’t necessarily meet the long-terms needs of the marketplace and sustain the growth for our company. It would not have included an additional workforce. We would have constructed a facility that required the current workforce that we have,” said Roach.

According to Roach construction is expected to being by mid-summer with completion of the new facility to follow 18 to 20 months later.