Praise for Arkansas was at the top of the agenda at a press conference Tuesday morning announcing the Norwegian company Elopak will soon build a production plant at the Port of Little Rock.
The company produces gable top cartons for dairy, juice, plant-based products, liquid eggs and more, all with an eye to sustainability. Reinard Dreesmann, Elopak’s vice president of operations for the Americas, talked at length Tuesday about the decision to bring the company to Arkansas and to Little Rock specifically. The facility will mark the company’s first production plant in the U.S.
“You can have a great strategy, and you can have a great vision — it also seems the people living in that area share that and believe in that,” Dreesmann said. “And that, for me, was really the most exciting reasoning for Elopak to choose Little Rock.”
The plant will create about 80 permanent jobs initially but eventually will employ 100, including engineers, printers, operators, logistics specialists and more. Elopak aims to open the facility in the first half of 2025, a company spokesman said later.
Little Rock was the smallest city considered for the site, Dreesmann said, “but it acted big; it thought big.”
The Port of Little Rock is about 5,000 acres, and Elopak expects to take up about 25 acres. The production plant is estimated to be nearly 300,000 square feet, and Dreesmann said he hopes to have the production equipment put in place in about a year. Overall, Elopak is putting about $70 million into the project.
Along with Dreesmann, a gaggle of state and local leaders squeezed into a conference room overlooking the Arkansas River Tuesday morning. Barges floated by as Gov. Sarah Sanders, state Secretary of Commerce Hugh McDonald, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr., regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Jay Chesshir and Port Chairman Bobby Brown made remarks.
Sanders’ speech included her typical routine of touting tax cuts, cutting red tape so businesses can thrive and focusing on education and crime. She spoke highly of the collaboration between the state and local leaders. When it came to talking about Elopak specifically, Sanders kept it short.
“I can assure you that we will not let you down,” Sanders said. “We will continue to work in perfect collaboration and coordination as we make this your new home and your favorite place to stop and visit.”
On the sustainability side, Elopak is working to have all of its factories carbon neutral by 2030.
This idea aligns well with Scott’s goal to transition city operations to 100% clean energy by 2030.
“As a millennial mayor, I have to focus on the long-term future, for everyone here in the city,” Scott said after the press conference. “Climate change is real.”
Though the city can’t direct private businesses to enact sustainable practices, officials can encourage and influence it, Scott said. Working with companies that value sustainability is something Scott said he hopes will become the norm.