New E-Commerce Park to Meet Major Manufacturing Needs in Northeast Arkansas

New E-Commerce Park to Meet Major Manufacturing Needs in Northeast Arkansas
Armstrong, left, and Brown announced the first tenant in their new e-commerce park in Jonesboro in May. Hytrol Conveyor Co. Inc.’s 150,000-SF warehouse is scheduled for completion in the spring. (Terrance Armstard)

The 263-acre logistics, warehousing and digital fulfillment e-commerce park taking shape along Interstate 555 in Jonesboro will meet needs that area manufacturers have had for years, according to its owner, first tenant and a local economic developer. 

There is nothing like this in the region, they say, and Joshua Brown says his park offers manufacturers the opportunity to achieve cost savings by increasing efficiency at a time when fuel prices and labor rates for trucking are soaring. 

Brown, principal at Haag Brown Commercial Real Estate Development in Jonesboro, and Greg Haag own the property for the park through the firm’s affiliate, Real Estate for E Commerce LLC. They bought the first 197 acres in November for $1.9 million, then the adjacent 66 acres in June for $600,000.

Brown said the completed park could be worth $200 million-$250 million.

Manufacturers indicated that running distribution operations from a single site would create savings big enough to more than offset the higher rents that come with new buildings, he said. 

The park is convenient not only to the interstate but also to existing production plants, Brown said, and it will offer up to 3 million SF of space. Other aspects of the project include walking trails, water features and a pavilion as well as detention ponds surrounded by woods to create “aesthetically appealing views,” he said. Ecological Design Group of Rogers did the preliminary site planning for the park, which already has its first tenant, Hytrol Conveyor Co. Inc. of Jonesboro. Brown hopes to announce a second tenant within the next few months and to see a groundbreaking for that tenant in September or October. This tenant’s facility will be adjacent to Hytrol’s.

Hytrol Anchors Project

Haag Brown first announced the park project in November, but it attracted more attention after Hytrol announced its plans in May. The conveyor company aims to consolidate three existing warehouses into a new 150,000-SF warehouse and distribution center. 

Contractor Ramsons Inc., Cooper Mixon Architects and engineering firm Fisher Arnold, all of which have offices in Jonesboro, are working on the Hytrol project, expected to be completed in spring 2023, Brown said. Encore Bank of Little Rock is financing the project.

Brown and Mark Young, president and CEO of the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce, said Hytrol is the city’s largest manufacturer.

“It kind of checks all the boxes for e-commerce in the production of conveyors. We really spent a lot of time and effort on making the Hytrol deal happen,” Brown said. “Our anchor deal has been done. … That’s when the other manufacturers in and around Jonesboro started calling us saying they want a version of the exact same thing.”

The company announcement generated another lead as well. Two manufacturers in Poinsett County have asked Brown to develop a similar project on 120 acres that the manufacturers own there.

“When we announced the Hytrol project, I think folks realized that it was real. We immediately got two calls from people interested in doing a project of some sort that I had been trying to reach for months,” said Jeff Armstrong, who heads Haag Brown’s industrial and logistics brokerage. 

Brown said, “We’re hoping to have a groundbreaking on [the park] every six months, for the next few years. We’ve got enough deals to do. We feel really confident about filling our project.”

Needy Market

Brown and Armstrong cited longtime need as the catalyst for the park project. 

Armstrong said local companies have been growing but making do with the space they have. He noted that Jonesboro as a “secondary market” hasn’t had a real estate entity dedicated to providing speculative space available in larger markets such as Little Rock and Memphis — until now.

Young, the chamber executive, said speculative warehousing has thrived in Memphis and northern Mississippi, but that hasn’t been the case for markets the size of Jonesboro, which has since become a regional hub. In addition to Hytrol, the city is home to manufacturing operations for Nestlé, Frito-Lay, Nice-Pak, FMH Conveyors and others.

The park will be something Jonesboro can show off, Young said. “We’re interested in activity that improves the economy of Jonesboro, and this is a great project that will benefit the community … meeting a need that’s existed for a couple of years,” he said. “We’ve really needed additional warehouse space.”

He added that the city is home to “a tremendous number of manufacturing companies” with warehousing needs, and responding to those needs will likely lead to job creation. 

Hytrol’s Bob West, vice president of corporate development, called the park “good for our entire area.” He said there isn’t a lot of commercial space available in or around Jonesboro, and what is available — 100,000 SF or so — isn’t a significant amount. 

He said Hytrol had been looking for this kind of space “for some time” to replace the smaller warehouses on which it holds short-term leases. Having warehousing in Jonesboro makes sense because most of its products are made there, though the company does have a smaller operation in Fort Smith.

The park offers Hytrol a long-term lease, and the option to buy a large warehousing facility at “a very competitive price,” West said.

Young said, “It’s great when we have the opportunity to recruit new companies to the community; it’s even more special when we continue to see companies that have been here for years continue to invest in our community. And so this is another example of that and will be a great addition in Hytrol’s capabilities in Jonesboro.”

One Year’s Work

Brown said his team had been looking to put together a project like the park for about a year because Haag Brown was getting calls from manufacturers and real estate brokers looking for warehouse and distribution space. But his team never had anything to show those callers, he said. 

And then a year ago, Haag Brown hired Armstrong.

He had previously worked as a distribution specialist for soybean, corn and cottonseed provider Armor Seed of Jonesboro.

“There was this great need, and they were willing to put energy and resources behind it to meet that need. They just needed a person to help with those efforts and kind of be the point person,” Armstrong said of coming on board to represent park tenants. 

He said the business leaders he met with were apprehensive about the park at first, concerned that its purpose was to attract new companies that would compete with them for talent. 

But Armstrong said they came around when he explained that the vision for the park is to support existing businesses and help make them more efficient. 

Working on a speculative project is challenging in and of itself, Armstrong said, but it was also tough to disappoint companies that needed the space right away instead of in a year, when it would be available.

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