Fort Smith-based Zero Mountain Inc. is holding a ground breaking ceremony Tuesday (Oct. 9) for a $12.5 million expansion of its North Little Rock operation that will result in at least 22 new jobs when completed.
The cold storage and logistics company acquired the North Little Rock facility in 2016, making it the fifth warehouse in the company’s growing network. After renovations, the new cold storage operation opened in 2017, but “customer growth has precipitated the need to expand,” the company noted in a statement.
Joe Rumsey V, Zero Mountain president and CEO, said the expansion will add around 74,000 square feet to the existing 88,000-square-foot building. This will add 5.8 million cubic feet of storage space, bringing the total company storage to 41.3 million cubic feet of combined blast freezing, shipping/receiving and storage space.
“There is a good workforce there, access to those (major interstates). And there was just a need for a good cold storage operate in that market,” Rumsey said of the expansion.
The expansion also includes the addition of three blast cells for quick freezing. Rumsey said size matters in storage because of “the economies of scale in this business.”
“This also gives us the ability to become a distribution center” for customers, he added.
The company has 375 employees in five facilities – Fort Smith, Johnson, Lowell, North Little Rock and Russellville – and ships almost 3 billion pounds of food annually. The North Little Rock expansion is part of a string of expansions in the past three years. An $18 million expansion in Fort Smith resulted in more than 550,000 square feet of cold storage warehouse space. That work was finished in 2016.
In 2014-2015, the company diversified by adding a trucking and logistics division that now has 60 trucks and around 50 drivers, Rumsey said. That division is primarily based at the company’s Lowell operation. Zero Mountain Logistics trucks ship products all over the U.S.
A key advantage in launching the trucking service is Zero Mountain was already familiar with U.S. Department of Agriculture food-handling rules. That experience, Rumsey said in 2015, was a selling point for the logistics operation.
“We want to be a one-stop shop for our customers,” Rumsey said.