Jul 6, 2022 - Business

J.B. Hunt's headquarters land grab

A J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. tractor trailer parked at a freight depot. Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. has agreed to pay $18 million to buy nearly 9 acres about a half-mile north of its Lowell headquarters, Talk Business & Politics first reported.

  • The purchase includes three buildings known as the Northwest Arkansas Business Center.

Why it matters: Arkansas has staked its claim to become the global leader of next-generation transportation by 2030. The purchase shows J.B. Hunt is willing to continue investing in its NWA presence and presumably hire more people.

  • That will eventually bolster the existing transportation and logistics hub here.

Driving the news: The company is busy building through acquisitions and continues to diversify its services.

Last week, J.B. Hunt announced it will expand its 53-foot shipping container fleet by more than 40,000 over the next three to five years. Swire Shipping Pte. Ltd. will bring the containers, filled with customer freight, from China to ports in California and the Pacific Northwest.

  • In January, the business announced a deal to buy Zenith Freight Lines, a subsidiary of Bassett Furniture Industries, for $87 million.

Yes, and: A pilot project with autonomous tech developer Waymo will haul freight for online furniture retailer Wayfair between Dallas and Houston. It's set to kick off this summer.

  • A commercially licensed driver will be in the cab for each trip.

Context: The company has added nearly 10,000 employees in the past three years, Talk Business & Politics reported.

  • Various buildings have been under construction on its existing footprint since at least 2015.

The intrigue: Most of the 108,000 square feet of commercial space on the new property is now vacant, but it was 96% full in 2020 when previous owners purchased it for $12.95 million.

  • The only current tenants are Mercy Behavioral Health and Banker's Life.

What they're saying: "While detailed plans around renovations and updates are still in development, these [new] locations will provide valuable workspace for employees to collaborate and engage onsite in a team environment," Nick Hobbs, JB Hunt's chief operations officer, told Talk Business & Politics.

The company's first quarter earnings were $243.3 million, almost 66% higher than the $146.6 million for the same period in 2021.

What to watch: J.B. Hunt will release its second quarter earnings after markets close on Tuesday, July 19.

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