estrock Coffee Company was born in Rwanda, Africa, after founder Scott Ford saw female coffee growers were not being compensated fairly in comparison to male counterparts in the market. It was in that moment he decided to start his own coffee company and even the playing field for female farmers.
Upon coming home to Arkansas, the company opened its first roasting facility in Little Rock in 2009, where it has remained for 13 years. Westrock began by working directly with independent coffee farmers in East Africa. Now, the global company operates in over 10 countries and sources coffee, tea and extracts from farmers in 35 origin countries.
“Westrock Coffee has Arkansas in our DNA. We founded the company here, and we have seen exceptional growth and success here,” says Westrock Coffee Group President of Operations Will Ford.
To allow for a more central location for employees, customers, partners and visitors, the company announced in March 2023 it would be moving its headquarters to 50,000 sq. ft. of office space in Little Rock. Increased space will aid in on-site collaboration with connectivity to operations in the area.
Just three months later in June 2023, Westrock announced it will invest $300 million in a new facility 30 minutes north in Conway. This investment, focused on development, production and distribution operations, goes toward redevelopment of the former 524,000-sq.-ft. Kimberly-Clark site, which the company had acquired in 2021.
“Conway was always the target of this venture, and we couldn’t be happier with the location. Our co-founder, my grandfather Joe T. Ford, was born in Faulkner County and grew up in Conway, so the area has long been integral to Westrock Coffee’s story,” says Will Ford.
“This new investment is a representation of that success, as is the groundbreaking of our Conway facility, our new headquarters on Rodney Parham Road, and our plans to create more than 700 new jobs in Conway over the next five years. We are thrilled with what Arkansas provides Westrock Coffee, we are deeply engaged with the strong community we call home, and we look forward to everything we continue to build and the strategic growth we will achieve here.”
Legacy of Innovation
The new facility will introduce advanced robotics to aid in production of the company’s cold brew coffees, lattes, teas and juice products. New additions include the nation’s largest state-of-the-art roasting to ready-to-drink facility, a new product development lab, and FDA-certified pilot plant for future growth.
Clark O’Neal, Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, tells Site Selection that the state has been home to the Ford family for generations bringing innovation to life. Joe Ford created Alltell in Little Rock in 1943. The telecommunications company was acquired by Verizon Wireless in 2008.
“The Ford family is from Arkansas and they want to be here,” says O’Neal. “This project came to us when we had a vacant and available industrial building in Conway. In December 2021, Westrock announced 250 new jobs would come there. Now, it is 850 new jobs and over $350 million of capital investment.”
Even with increasing global growth, Westrock Coffee and the Ford family remain true to the assets and support Arkansas has to offer.
“As a family, we are proud to continue to grow our business in this great state and wouldn’t be where we are today without the local and community leaders that have been on this journey with us since day one,” says Will Ford. “Westrock Coffee has become a staple in Little Rock and the broader central Arkansas community, and we could not be more pleased for that to be the case. As we add so many new jobs to the area, we look forward to welcoming new team members and continuing to make Arkansas the best state it can be.”