View from the Top: Michael Keown

President and CEO, Farmer Brothers

Farmer Brothers is one of several companies that have relocated to North Texas from Torrance, California, joining a former neighbor there, Toyota Motor North America. The company imports, roasts, and sells coffee to the foodservice, hospitality, health care, gaming and retail establishments. We had a chance to visit with President and CEO Mike Keown  at Farmer Brothers new headquarters in Northlake.


What were the main reasons behind Farmer Brothers’ relocation from Torrance, California to North Texas?

It was fundamentally about repositioning the company for the next 100 years, which sounds a bit cliché, but we’d been in a space since 1912 and the business has changed quite a bit — the needs of the business had changed quite a bit. As we studied where we might go, the Metroplex shone, both from a cost-savings/freight, logistics/ability to serve our customers—those kinds of things—but also access to talent [and] the ability to bring our customers in to these types of places. We thought it was going to be win-win, and it appears to be that and more.


Why did you choose this location in Northlake?  

We had a team evaluate where we might go on roughly 23 criteria. Everything began from access to talent, coffee sourcing, freight logistics, and ability to acquire and retain talent. That led us to a corridor ... from north of Houston to Oklahoma City. That’s what we first announced. Then as we refined it, the Metroplex looked better and better, and we began to evaluate properties within the Metroplex. Ultimately, we came to the corridor from Alliance along 35 north into Denton County. This piece of property came up, and it really checked every box: the logistics potential from this in terms of outbound freight, but also bringing coffee in from the Port of Houston, and then other aspects of it — like for those of us who travel quite a bit, the proximity to DFW. This plot had everything.


Where are employees who made the move from California choosing to live?

Really, it’s across the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and I include Denton County in that. We have employees [in] the city of Dallas, down the corridor into Fort Worth, and north into Denton County, which is, I think, a testament to what the area has to offer. I’m not sure there’s one location that they’re gravitating to. My sense is, depending on what their unique situations are, the needs are for their families. They’re living all over the area, which is what we wanted, what we’d hoped.