story and photos by Kim Souza
Northwest Arkansas’ job magnetism continues with news that South Coast Baking, a cookie dough provider for Mrs. Field’s, Sam’s Club and Panera Bread, is locating a second production center in Springdale.
The frozen cookie dough company will bring 150 jobs with an average hourly wage of $25 to Springdale by next summer as its $8.7 million investment transforms an existing 104,000 square foot building at 800 S. 40th Street.
Gov. Mike Beebe joined state and local officials to welcome representatives of the Irvine, Calif.-based company to the state.
“South Coast Baking’s decision to locate in Springdale adds to Arkansas’ reputation as a hub for food manufacturers,” Beebe said. “The combination of our skilled workforce and a central location for product distribution continues to draw companies here.”
He said this well-established company makes a great product with a growing market share and Arkansas, particularly Springdale, is delighted to be the beneficiary of that growth.
Company officials said the central U.S. location of this manufacturing and warehouse facility will mitigate the company’s existing transportation costs as it serves companies in a growing customer base east of the Rockies. Kent Hayden, CEO of South Coast Baking, said this central location will eliminate 2.5 million miles of freight annually, saving 400,000 gallons of diesel.
Hayden started the business 24 years ago and it continues to grow with some of the biggest brands in the country — Sam’s Club, Panera and Mrs. Field’s, all of whom were present in Springdale for the expansion announcement.
“We are a family business and have been welcomed with open arms in Springdale. We looked at Texas, Kentucky and North Carolina before ultimately choosing Arkansas for this second facility," Hayden said. “Springdale provides us with an opportunity to establish our roots in an economically viable and business-friendly climate. Ultimately our increased production capacity along with geographical freight efficiencies will allow us to better serve our customers."
Lance Eads, economic director for the Springdale Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber received a lead from from a broker back in April that South Coast was looking to expand.
“We made contact with them, they visited in May and we saw the potential so we put them in touch with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and it came together pretty quickly,” Eads said.
Hayden said the total incentive package, which included a $4.51 million loan guarantee by the AEDC and Arkansas Department of Finance Authority, cinched the deal.
Other incentives included $700,000 from the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund that will be used on the building renovations and two performance-based tax credits. The company qualified for 1% tax credit on wages paid for the first five years of operation and a tax credit refund for any machinery they purchase for getting their operation up and running.
The company will initially employ 80 workers with a year-two ramp up of 40 additional employees, reaching 150 total employees during its third year of operation in Springdale. Once remodeling efforts begin in November, the company estimates operations will begin in July of 2014.
Hayden said without the coordinated efforts of various city and state entities, the expansion into Arkansas would not have been possible.
“Contrary to the way it may look, I am happy to see South Coast come to Springdale for other reasons beside the delicious cookies," Mayor Doug Sprouse, joked as he approached the podium at Wednesday’s event.
“Job creation is our top priority in Springdale and this decision by South Coast Baking to open a second plant here is tremendous news,” Sprouse said. “The emphasis on job growth in our city has and continues to pay huge dividends in our economy. South Coast Baking is adding a significant number of new jobs and will pay an outstanding wage. That’s good news for our workforce and our city.”
Hayden told the crowd that the average tenure at his firm is 17 years because employees are the “main ingredient” to South Coast's continued success.
“We pay a fair wage and provide full health care to every employee for $20 per month,” he said.
Gov. Beebe quickly replied, “We need to send you to Washington.”
South Coast Baking
The company was originally founded under the name “Countryside Baking” in 1989 by CEO Kent Hayden. He sold the company in 2006, but bought it back in 2012, changed the name to South Coast and headquartered it in Irvine, Calif.