Rogers biotech company to expand, increase workforce by nearly 50%

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 1,599 views 

Pel-Freez Biologicals in Rogers, a supplier to vaccine and diagnostic companies worldwide, has a $2.2 million facility expansion planned to increase its workforce by nearly 50%.

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) announced the expansion Wednesday (Oct. 13).

Pel-Freez President and CEO Dr. Brian Bonk told the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal the expansion would add approximately 40,000 square feet of new facilities across the company’s farms in Gentry and laboratories in Rogers. Bonk said the project would modernize and expand its facilities and operations, including its rabbit farm operations, rabbit processing facilities, biomedical manufacturing facilities and research and development capabilities.

Pel-Freez maintains headquarters at 205 N. Arkansas St. in downtown Rogers. The expansion is expected to add 31 jobs to the company’s workforce of 64, with an average hourly wage of $22.14.

“Due to Pel-Freez’s unique position at the intersection of agriculture and the global life science supply chain, there are many reasons why Northwest Arkansas is an ideal location to continue growing our company,” Bonk said in a statement.

According to the AEDC release, Pel-Freez began as a backyard rabbit farm in 1911 and entered the biological business in the 1950s to meet the growing needs of researchers. The company produces high-quality raw materials and intermediates for biological research, including serums, plasma, blood fractions, tissues, and antibodies from various species. Pel-Freez is the only large-scale producer of U.S.-origin rabbit serum and plasma and several other specialized life science reagents used in the diagnostic and vaccine industry.

“Pel-Freez is a unique company in the global life science supply chain, and it has been great to watch this homegrown company make new strides in the industry,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement. “It is exactly the type of company we want to recruit here, and I am thrilled that they continue to invest in Arkansas.”

Pel-Freez provides critical biological materials for over 1,000 customers annually in over 40 countries. Customers include some of the nation’s most well-known research institutions and several Fortune 500 pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies.

“Pel-Freez is just one more example of how the business climate and workforce in Northwest Arkansas are ideally suited to propel biotech companies to success,” said Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston. “Pel-Freez has a long and rich history in the state, and I am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this exciting company.”

Pel-Freez was a third-generation family-owned business until it was acquired in 2020 by a private investment group. The company cited support from state and local leaders such as the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the Rogers-Lowell Chamber of Commerce, and the Northwest Arkansas Council among the reasons for its continued growth in Rogers.

“I am proud of the continued impact of Pel-Freez in our local economy and as it reaches further,” Rogers Mayor Greg Hines said in a statement. “This company has employed countless Rogers residents over 110 years of operation. It is an honor to have this resilient, adaptable leader in biological business keeping residence in our backyard.”