Reprinted from THE EVENING TIMES, July 30, 2008

The quick move of The J.M. Smucker Co. distribution facility to West Memphis has been “nothing short of a miracle,” the CEO of the logistics company that operates the facility told city and state officials on Monday.

DSC Logistics CEO Ann Drake praised the city for a “very successful” transition from Memphis to West Memphis during a grand opening celebration, which included a visit by U.S. Rep. Marion Berry and a brief stop by Gov. Mike Beebe for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The company’s Memphis warehouse at 5650 Challenge Drive was destroyed in February by a tornado. Three workers died in the facility.

During a brief speech on Monday, Drake acknowledged the “tragedy” that brought the company to Crittenden County, but commended the support by local and state officials to bring the company to the area.

“This was a really fast, quality, quick startup by anyone’s terms and by all accounts, it’s been very successful,” she said.

The company’s relocation followed weeks of competitive negotiations in March between the West Memphis facility and several facilities in North Mississippi.

In April, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission committed $500,000 in incentives for infrastructure improvements, including an extension of the road around the facility.

The total cost of improvements for the food grade warehouse was about $2.6 million, according to Van Spear, a senior vice president for NAI Saig Co. who brokered the deal for the building’s owners, TCB Development of Chicago.

During a 90-minute stop in West Memphis, the governor toured the 600,000-square-foot facility at 3721 Infinity Parkway and met privately with company and government officials.

Beebe did not speak publicly, but called West Memphis a “great site” for the distribution facility in a news release.

“The location and workforce here create a strong place to invest, and East Arkansas families will benefit from the new jobs this facility brings,” the governor said in the release.

The J.M. Smucker Co. signed a seven-year lease for 300,000 square feet with the option to expand the site to up to 1.2 million square feet.

The facility currently employs 50 people, but an expansion could produce up to 130 jobs, according to Spear.

Denny Armstrong, vice president for logistics and operations support for the J.M. Smucker Co., called the new facility a “fabulous” fit for the company, which he said has increased its volume of tonnage shipped by 15 percent over the last five years.

“With our customer base, this is strategic and works out just terrific quite frankly,” Armstong said. “The fact that we can expand the building in a number of different ways, both short and long term is something we’re looking for... If anybody asked me, ‘What are the reasons (for moving to West Memphis)?’ It’s the fact that our company continues to grow and the fact that the labor force here is a good one, the economic considerations - all of those things come into play when you make a decision like we did.

“We’re pretty comfortable we made the right one and we’re going to be here for the long term.”

In a news release, Drake, the CEO of DSC Logistics, echoed some of Armstrong’s comments - calling the area workforce “wonderful to work with - eager to learn and hardworking.”

The comments have been welcomed by local officials who have tried to market the area as a distribution and logistics center.

West Memphis officials have touted the area’s lower tax and utility rates, as well as the access to the Union Pacific Intermodal Yard and close proximity to Interstates 40 and 55.

In a speech to celebrate the opening of the new facility, West Memphis Mayor Bill Johnson told company officials the city felt “blessed and privileged” to have the company in West Memphis.

“We did everything we knew how to entice you to West Memphis, we did everything that was asked of us if it was legal,” he told company officials. “We left no stone unturned to entice you to come here, but now that you’re here, we pledge that we will leave no stone unturned to make you successful. We’ll be here this year, next year for anything that comes up that we can assist you with.”

© Copyright The Evening Times. July 2008.All rights reserved.

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