Editor’s note: Story updated with additions and changes throughout.
Lowell-based J.B. Hunt Transport Services announced Wednesday (Dec. 9) a corporate expansion plan that will add more than 1,000 jobs in Northwest Arkansas in the next six years.
The transportation and logistics company broke ground in September on a new 133,000-square-foot central office building that is scheduled to be completed in spring 2017. The company has not disclosed a total cost for the large project that will be home to the 1,000 new employees estimated to be hired in the next six years, according to CEO John Roberts III. Using industry averages, the estimated construction cost of the new three-story office building is between $8 million and $9 million.
Roberts told the small crowd at the Wednesday announcement that the expansion was well thought out as part of the company’s forward-looking approach fueled by consistent growth over the past five decades. He said this new operations building will allow the company to bring together its business services that is scattered across several different locations. Roberts said having the groups working collaboratively in one facility will be a long-term benefit.
“In the past five years, J.B. Hunt has been successful in growing revenues from $3.8 billion to $6.2 billion,” Roberts noted in a statement. “This accomplishment would not be possible without our dedicated employees. As J.B. Hunt’s mark on the transportation industry gets larger, so will our workforce. Many new, full-time jobs will be created during the next six years to aid in this growth. J.B. Hunt is built on a foundation of innovation, tenacity and employees working together to offer exceptional services to our customers and communities.”
LOWELL ROOTS HISTORY
He told the group that even amid industry challenges, all of the company’s four operating divisions were profitable and growing and the company is well positioned for future growth with a strong capital base from which to draw. He said the company’s vision is to be bigger, better and stronger and that’s a tradition firmly rooted in its company history.
“We were founded by people who think big,” Roberts said.
Johnelle Hunt, co-founder and the company’s largest shareholder, shared with the group that the reason her husband chose to locate the trucking company in Lowell more than 40 years ago was because that was the cheapest place to buy land at the time.
“That’s the truth. But when we went on our world tour to showcase the company when it went public (1982) Johnny always told people everywhere we went that he chose Lowell, Ark., because it was the center of the universe,” she said.
J.B. Hunt is one of the largest transportation companies in North America and is also one of Arkansas’ seven homegrown Fortune 500 companies. The company was incorporated in Arkansas in August 1961 and has been a publicly held company since the company’s initial public offering in 1983. In July 2015, the company was selected to join the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, the market index widely recognized as a standard of comparison for investment performance. Company shares (NASDAQ: JBHT) closed Wednesday at $74.21, up 51 cents. During the past 52 weeks the share price has ranged from a $93.50 high to a $70.58 low.
Also at the announcement was Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R).
“J.B. Hunt is an Arkansas institution and one of our state’s best entrepreneurial success stories.” Hutchinson said. “I grew up here, I have roamed these hills and it’s an honor to be here today to recognize this great company and its co-founder that has poured a lifetime of dedication to this region and state.”
Because of the expansion size and commitment to new jobs, the state has given a discretionary 3.9% cash rebate on new payroll over the next six years. The state will also provide sales tax refunds on the building materials, taxable machinery and equipment associated with the expansion project.
He shared a memory of when J.B. Hunt, Don Tyson and Sam Walton were all brought together by then-Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt in a House Transportation Committee hearing. These three legendary entrepreneurs testified about the need for more roads.
“I wish we could call them all back to testify again because we need continued emphasis upon roads,” Hutchinson said.
The governor also commended J.B. Hunt for the number of tech jobs it provides in the state. He said growing jobs is an overall emphasis of his administration, but tech job expansion and a skilled tech workforce is at the top of the priority list.
The company employs more than 20,000 people in 400 facilities across the contiguous U.S.