Food distributor Ben E. Keith announced more detailed plans to expand its North Little Rock facility with a $60 million, 300,000-square-foot investment that will add 74 new jobs.
The company first announced its North Little Rock expansion in December 2013. The food service products distributor now employs 260 workers in Arkansas that pay an average wage of $33.75 per hour. State economic development officials said the expansion project was competitive with surrounding states, but Arkansas’ overall package secured the deal.
The expansion will develop a state-of-the-art distribution center in North Little Rock and will serve as the company’s Mid-South regional headquarters. The addition will consolidate Ben E. Keith’s facility at the Port of Little Rock into the North Little Rock facility.
Ben E. Keith serves all of Arkansas and parts of Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Tennessee. Company officials said growth in the culinary and restaurant industries in the region, as well as a push for more market share, led to the expansion efforts.
Gov. Mike Beebe disclosed that $2.27 million from the Quick Action Closing Fund and performance incentives from the state were provided for the expansion. The fund currently has a low balance and Beebe said the next governor would be expected to deal with the incentive pool to remain competitive for economic projects.
The expansion was also aided by a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) that will help North Little Rock build its energy infrastructure for commercial enterprise development.
Construction should begin mid-summer and may take 18-20 months to complete.
Ben E. Keith moved into Arkansas in 1973 when it purchased the Dillaha Fruit Co.