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  • Writer's pictureJ M Bell

Westrock Plant Renovation Grows to $300M Project; 850 New Jobs Expected

July 3, 2023 - Originally posted by Arkansas Business

The former Kimberly-Clark plant in Conway (Westrock)

Westrock Coffee Co. of Little Rock (NYSE: WRK) on Friday announced that its plan to transform the former Kimberly-Clark plant in Conway into a state-of-the-art production facility has grown into a $300 million project.

The project was tabbed at around $100 million when Westrock announced the purchase of the 524,000-SF facility in December 2021. Renovations began in November.

Westrock said the number of jobs the plant will create over the next five years has also risen sharply from 250 to 850 "due to overwhelming response from customers." Average annual salaries are expected to be around $70,000.

Westrock executives provided an update on the project with Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and state economic officials Friday. Sanders said the company's "commitment to the state is unparalleled."

Sanders continued: "Arkansas is blessed and lucky to have them as part of our community."

Scott Ford, CEO and co-founder of Westrock, said the expansion would include a state-of-the-art extracts and a ready-to-drink facility. “The decision represents our unwavering commitment to our employees, the community, and our customers,” Ford said.

Westrock, which went public in August 2022 through a SPAC deal, purchased the building at 480 Exchange Ave. for the development, production and distribution of its coffee, tea and ready-to-drink products. The renovated plant will use advanced robotics that are designed to manufacture and package a wide-range of beverages, such as canned or bottled cold brew coffees, lattes, assorted teas and juice-based products.

The building will also have a product development lab and a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-certified pilot plant where Westrock will test new products.

“Westrock Coffee is another example of bold entrepreneurship finding success in Arkansas,” Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Hugh McDonald, who joined Sanders at Friday’s announcement, said. “Arkansas is a welcoming and supportive environment for businesses like Westrock Coffee to thrive and grow, and we’re proud to see this major expansion happen in Conway.”

The facility is about two miles from another major Westrock project. The company is building a $70 million, 530,000-SF distribution center in Conway on a 30-acre site off William J. Clark Drive near Interstate 40.

That facility is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

Westrock reported a first-quarter net loss of $4.3 million, an improvement over its net loss of $4.7 million in the same period in 2022. Net sales increased 10% to $205.4 million for the period ending March 31.

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