NEW BROCKTON -- Hundreds of people, including local and state officials, were in New Brockton Wednesday to break ground on a new distribution center that will create 80 jobs over the next five years.
The Fort Worth, Texas-based Ben E. Keith’s new center will span 423,681-square feet, and the total site -- located at the corner of U.S. Highway 84 and County Road 514 -- encompasses 118 acres, which offers opportunities for future expansion to more than 1 million square feet.
“I’m thrilled for the people of New Brockton and the surrounding area to see the new beginning of this huge facility,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said. “This will be a significant addition to Alabama’s economy with a $100 million investment and bring in 80 new jobs. For a small community like New Brockton, this will make an enormous improvement and difference to the people.”
Among those present at the two-hour ceremony, which included lunch for RSVP attendees, were Scott Davison, general manager of Ben E. Keith’s Southeast Division, and Mike Sweet, president of Ben E. Keith Foods.
“Today is all about celebrating new beginnings and what the future holds,” Davison said. “This facility will service the entire Southeast region (with a) footprint that will extend seven hours from this site. Our footprint will service customers from the Louisiana state line, about half of Mississippi, all of Alabama, north into Tennessee, across Georgia through Atlanta, down to Jacksonville, Florida and south to Tampa Bay and Orlando.”
Davison added that “the journey to get to this day” was three years in the making.
“It started with the acquisition of Kelley Foods of Alabama,” Davison said. “At that announcement, I made the statement that we would do things right, that we would build the best and that we were going to become the dominant distributor in the Southeast. We’ve invested in people, expanded our product offering, enhanced existing partnerships and built new ones. (This facility) will be another resource to enhance what we’ve already been doing and open opportunities for current employees and new opportunities for employment across the Southeast.”
Sweet, a Texas native, said the groundbreaking was “a special day in the history of our company” and that Alabama is a premier place for business.
“Alabama is pro-business, and such a great place to have a company and grow and be proud to do what we’re going to be doing,” Sweet said. “When you have a special day like this, there are so many people that play a role in why we’re here. (First and foremost) the Hallams --the owners and leaders of our company, who had the vision and give us the support and resources we need to build buildings like this so we can grow (and have) great places for our employees to go to work. We’re here today for all the employees of the Southeast Division -- not only the current employees, but the ones who have come before them that laid this foundation.”
Coffee County Commissioner Dean Smith also spoke and thanked all the local people and government entities that assisted in making the new facility a reality.
“I hope everyone is as excited as I am,” Smith said. “I want to thank Ben E. Keith for their continued investment in Coffee County and look forward to a long partnership.”
Gov. Ivey also thanked Ben E. Keith for their investment in Alabama.
“(Thank you) for recognizing that Alabama is committed to being a business-friendly state and we welcome you,” Ivey said. “When I heard about Ben E. Keith coming to build this facility, I was ever so proud. This company is our nation’s eighth largest distribution center. (This new facility will help) in bringing not only good jobs, but providing a basis for this outstanding company to continue growing in Alabama.”
Construction on the facility will begin by Dec. 2019, with a completion date expected in Dec. 2021.
Ben E. Keith entered Alabama in 2016 when it acquired Elba’s Kelley Foods, which dates back to 1957. That operation today has 230 workers.