A temperature-controlled food products motor carrier — reportedly owned by two wealthy brothers in Mississippi — is going to open a new service center along the North Church Street corridor on the far north to northeastern side of Rocky Mount.
FFE Transportation Services plans to invest $4.7 million in establishing the facility and create 96 new jobs in Nash County in an expansion into the Mid-Atlantic region, Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement on Tuesday.
“More and more companies are choosing North Carolina for their operation,” Cooper said. “They are looking to invest in a community with a steady pipeline of talent, the right location and a great quality of life.”
Additionally, Cooper, who is a Nash County native, said, “I know first-hand that Rocky Mount could not be a better fit for FFE.”
FFE is short for Frozen Food Express. The company, which is based in Dallas, has been in business for about 65 years.
State officials said FFE is the largest asset-based refrigerated, less-than-truckload carrier in the nation. The officials also said FFE now ships pharmaceuticals, plasma and other perishable products.
The effort to bring FFE to Rocky Mount previously had been code-named by local officials as “Project Tire.” The prospect expressed interest in the location at 3051 N. Church St., at what once had been the MBM building.
Nick Cook, vice president of operations for FFE, in a prepared statement said the company is elated to strategically expand into the Mid-Atlantic and that the expansion will provide better service to the company’s customers.
“This project expands FFE’s footprint to reach a new group of talent that can grow with the organization,” Cook said.
“The Rocky Mount service center will be a beautiful place that our drivers will feel good about calling home,” Cook said. “The location was a huge factor, but the assistance from the state of North Carolina made this an easy decision for us.”
State Sen. Rick Horner said in a statement that gaining 96 new jobs is exciting news and that “I know FFE Transportation Services will have tremendous success in Nash County.”
State Rep. James Gailliard said in a statement that he believes FFE’s investment is a win for everyone.
“Situated along I-95 and armed with a ready workforce, Rocky Mount is ready to support their new operation,” Gailliard said.
The state Commerce Department and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina led the state’s support for FFE’s decision.
“Location is a determining factor for transportation companies that decide to do business in North Carolina,” state Commerce Secretary Anthony Copeland said in a statement. “Rocky Mount is prepared with the infrastructure and skilled workforce for FFE’s future success.”
State officials said the FFE project in North Carolina will be made easier, in part, by a state Job Development Investment Grant.
The officials said that, over the course of the grant’s seven-year term, the project is estimated to grow the state’s economy by $60 million.
FFE’s history can be traced to Cy Weller, who was an attorney from San Antonio, Texas.
Weller, after returning home in 1943 from serving in the U.S. Army, found he no longer had office space for his law practice.
The FFE website states Weller used his experience in the Army to purchase military equipment, including salvage trucks, from the government to sell to trucking companies.
The website states Weller found the demand for and the dilemma of transporting perishable items, such as fruit and seafood, across the country.
It states Weller purchased Army refrigerators used for international shipment of food and installed the refrigerators into trailers.
Weller met Roger Malone, who had started a trucking company at the time called Frozen Food Express Industries. Malone decided to exit the business, which Weller ended up acquiring in 1948.
In 2013, FFE was acquired by brothers Jim and Tom Duff, both of whom Forbes magazine in a May 2018 story called the richest people in Mississippi.
The Duff brothers already had been successful in the businessworld in selling commercial truck tires and in the retreading business.
Forbes reported that in 2008 the Duff brothers acquired Jackson, Miss.-based KLLM Transport Service, a long-haul temperature-controlled carrier, for $12 million.
Forbes reported that KLLM was near bankruptcy but now earns $600 million in revenues.
The magazine reported that the Duff brothers acquired FFE, a short-haul temperature-controlled carrier, for $38.2 million.
The magazine said despite FFE having lost an average of $20 million a year for four years, the company became profitable by 2017 and revenues increased to $380 million.