Ground was broken today (June 11) that will add between 20 and 40 jobs to the Van Buren economy.
Officials with Tankersley Food Service, along with Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman and Crawford County Judge John Hall, took part in the groundbreaking on the company's new $4 million addition to their Van Buren facility.
"We feel very fortunate to report that we've ran out of room and we need to expand," said Tankersley Food Service President Thomas Moon. "Thanks to Mr. Tankersley and the Tankersley family, we're able to fill that need."
CEO Don Tankersley said the expansion would help the company continue to expand and employ more local residents with medium- to high-wage positions.
"It's going to be more drivers, more warehouse people and more management also. We'll be adding people in all categories," he said.
To help fund the expansion, Tankersley said the company was able to take part in a program offered by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
"To encourage development, they give you the sales tax back," he said, explaining that construction equipment and supplies qualified for the program since the company would be creating jobs as a result of the construction work being completed at their 17-acre site in the Van Buren Industrial Park.
Moon said Tankersley would be better able to serve their customers with a larger facility, which will include an additional 28,000-square feet of freezer space, a new refrigerated dock and new customer service offices.
The expansion, which will increase the size of Tankersley's distribution center to a total of approximately 175,000-square feet, will also help the company attract new business, with Moon saying it will "broaden the scope" of its core business.
The winning bid for construction when to Primus Contractors of Atlanta, Ga., Moon said, though much of the subcontracting would be completed by local companies, adding even more to economic development to the area.
Ground was officially broken on May 28 with work expected to be complete by Oct. 7, Moon said.
"That's pretty quick. But we are looking forward to the day when we can utilize our facility."
Hiring for additional staff should be complete by that time, Tankersley said, adding that he would like to have staff trained and in place by the time the facility is complete and available for operations.
Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman said while attracting new business was important to the community, keeping current businesses such as Tankersley and helping them grow was also vital to a continued strong economic climate.
"Everyone gets excited, and they should get excited, when we have a new company that comes into our community. But it's just as important, just as important for that retention and the expansion of what we have today and that's again why we thank you for reinvestment here in Van Buren, Ark., and what that means. And we want to work and partner with you the best we can to keep you and help you be successful."
Drew Williams of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission echoed Freeman's statement, adding that reinvestment by companies large and small was the "lifeblood" of the state's economy.
"We know that about 80% of our job creation is done through existing businesses retention," he said. "We know that's true in Arkansas and the rest of the country. And we appreciate your investment here. And we know locally, this means a lot to Van Buren, the region and we investment in the state of Arkansas."
Crawford County Judge John Hall said anything that creates jobs is a win-win for not only Van Buren and Crawford County, but for the entire Fort Smith region.
"As the mayor has said, the main thing that we appreciate is the jobs (that are) created here in Crawford County. I myself, as a county judge, most of my (work) is outside the city limits. But anything good that happens inside the city of Van Buren, and I can help the mayor and I can help the chamber and help the industry, I am here to help you and I really appreciate y'all keeping this industry here and bringing more jobs and let's look forward to the next 60 to 70 years. You've got a great company, you have great employees, and I really appreciate you all keeping them here in Crawford County."
Tankersley employs 220 people at its Van Buren facility and services numerous clients, including schools, nursing homes and restaurants, within a 225-mile radius of its Van Buren facility.