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Norwegian food packager announces plans for $70 million plant, 80 jobs at Port of Little Rock

A rendering shows the proposed Elopak facility at the Port of Little Rock.
Arkansas Department of Commerce
A rendering shows the proposed Elopak facility at the Port of Little Rock.

From Talk Business & Politics:

A Norwegian liquid food packaging company will open a new $70 million, 300,000-square-foot factory including equipment at the Port of Little Rock, the company announced Dec. 5.

Elopak announced plans to build its first U.S. production facility at the port at 611 Zuber Road. It plans to start with about 80 employees including engineers and printers.

The company produces Pure-Pak gable top cartons – the kind with a triangular top – for milk, juices, plant-based products and liquid eggs. It is the world’s largest producer of fresh liquid carton fiber-based packaging.

“You might not know who Elopak is, yet I’m sure that you have a product of Elopak in your fridge,” said Reinard Dreesmann, vice president operations Americas, at the announcement at the Port Authority offices.

Dreesmann said the building will represent $44 million of the initial investment, with equipment composing the rest. The company will bring in the equipment in about a year. A second phase will involve investing another $40 million to $60 million in equipment.

The event featured remarks by Gov. Sarah Sanders, Secretary of Commerce Hugh McDonald, and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott. Scott noted that downtown Little Rock has “river, rail, road and runway, all within minutes of each other. And when we have that secret sauce with our people, it shows what we can do.”

McDonald said Elopak benefited from $1.25 million from the state’s Tax Back, Create Rebate and Quick Action Closing Fund programs. Little Rock also was expected to provide support through an industrial revenue bond that the City Council was expected to vote on later that day.

The company was founded in Norway in 1957 and was listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange in 2021. It employs 2,600 people and sells more than 14 billion cartons each year across more than 70 countries. It has converting facilities in Canada, Mexico and the Dominican Republic and a technical facility in Michigan.

Dreesmann said the company had reached its production capacity at its North American locations and had to decide about a year ago what it would do. It decided to expand in its biggest market, the United States.

The company wanted to find a location satisfactory for a 300,000-square-foot factory with rail access and that would fit with the company’s commitment to be carbon neutral in all its factories by 2030. It also wanted the factory to be close to current and new customers without competing with its existing factories.

A recruiting company identified 25 leads over five states. Further investigations reduced the number to five leads over four states and then down to two. The final decision came down to values and people, Dreesman said. He was impressed by a tour of the city.

Jay Chesshir, president and CEO of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the announcement marked the ninth company to locate or expand at the port since 2020. Elopak represents the seventh international flag that will be flying there.

Steve Brawner is a freelance journalist and contributor to Talk Business & Politics.