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Tri-Temp may bring 80 jobs to Van Buren.

New Warehouse Distribution Firm Stores Raw Materials, Finished Products

A NEWLY INCORPORATED company could mean more than 80 new jobs in Van Buren during the next few months.

Rex Mason and his partner, Jack Alexander, acquired a 125,000-SF warehouse from Affiliated Foods Southwest Inc. in May at the Crawford County Industrial Park in Van Buren. Soon afterward they incorporated Tri-Temp Distribution Inc. as part of the $2 million investment in the property.

Mason also moved his EagleWings Systems Inc. trucking firm from Fort Smith into the facility this summer. Since the move, employment at EagleWings has increased from 35 to 65, Mason says.

Mason named the company Tri-Temp Distribution because the warehouse can store materials at three different temperature levels: standard dry storage, refrigerated (as low as 33 degrees) and frozen storage (as low as minus-10 degrees).

The food-grade warehouse is the most critically maintained facility available, Mason says.

He says Tri-Temp is talking to manufacturers in the Fort Smith-Van Buren area about consolidating their raw materials used in production.

"With the just-in-time manufacturing philosophy many companies are using now, a lot of manufacturers need to react to their customers as quickly as possible," Mason says, "so we store the raw materials and deliver them each day or as needed.

"It makes a level playing field out of each manufacturer's ability to produce. It provides a third-party inventory system that gets materials and products off both the manufacturer's and his customer's books."

For competitive reasons, Mason declined to name some of the clients using the warehouse. But he says Tri-Temp warehouses such products as appliances, heating and air conditioning units, water heaters, tile and fixtures.

He has negotiated a deal to import building goods to the warehouse, repack the products and distribute them in the United States. He may take inventory on rubber products for a manufacturer in the state.

Texas Inventory Tax

"There is an inventory tax on warehouse goods that was started about a year ago in Texas," Mason says. "Companies are having problems because of that."

"And the center of the country's population is moving toward the southwest, closer to north Arkansas. Our area is growing tremendously fast, and this facility is the best one in the northwest part of the state."

Tri-Temp's warehouse usually can reduce te customer's cost to store his materials, Mason says. For example, a customer renting 20,000 SF of space for his product, although he needs that much room only three times a year, can store the product at Tri-Temp and only pay for the number of pallets used.

The three times a year those pallets take up 20,000 SF of space, the customer may be paying the same amount for storage. But the rest of the year his costs are cut significantly.

The warehouse is one mile from Interstate 540, three miles from Interstate 40 and one mile from the Arkansas River Port. With 17 acres, Tri-Temp has room for growth and Mason hopes to expand the operation within three years.

Tri-Temp began with just three employees, but Mason expects to have 80 employees or more at peak operation.

Mason, a longtime executive for Arkansas Best Corp. and ABF Freight System Inc., acquired Jacobs Trucking Inc. in July 1989. He changed the name to EagleWings Systems in 1990.

Revenues have increased from less than $1 million in Mason's first year of ownership to more than $6 million last year, he says. EagleWings, a contract carrier, has 57 tractors and 101 company-owned trailers in its fleet.

Mason hopes to use EagleWings to ship materials to and from Tri-Temp's warehouse, but businesses can use other carriers to transport products.
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Title Annotation:Tri-Temp Distribution Inc.; Van Buren, Arkansas
Author:Smith, David (American novelist)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Aug 30, 1993
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