It was a project that Beth Shelton, Director of the Harvey County Economic Development Council, made a lot of sense for Harvey County — pursue a possible chicken processing facility for Tyson Foods to locate in Harvey County.

"There are about 1,500 jobs at the hourly rate and about 200 jobs that are management salary," Shelton said.  "The jobs are $13.50 to $14.50 per hour. They are good paying jobs with good benefits."

Those 1,500 jobs matched up pretty well with recent unemployment numbers for Harvey County.

But Tyson last week narrowed their search for the location of a new processing plant to three places in Kansas — and despite the efforts of the Harvey County Economic Development Council Harvey County is not on that list.

The sites are in Cloud County in north-central Kansas, Montgomery County in southeastern Kansas and Sedgwick County in south-central Kansas. Montgomery County proposed a site in Coffeyville. Those sites were confirmed by the Greater Wichita Partnership and the Associated Press.

State Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Heather Lansdowne said that 16 communities in Kansas pursued the project and Tyson narrowed the list to three.

That rankled current Newton City Commissioner and candidate Glen Davis. He doesn't believe Newton did enough to try and woo Tyson. 

"I could not get a strike force to go to Tyson that is four and a half hours away and give a presentation because it goes against protocol," Davis said. "I felt like we should have went and told them what we have to offer."

However, Shelton said taking that action would have, most likely, done more harm than good.

"(The Kansas Department of Agriculture) specifically asked us not to reach out to the client," Shelton said. "When something comes through the state or a site selection consultant it is because they don't want all of the economic development groups to reach out to a client. ... The state has specific examples of people who have gone around protocol and reached out to the customer directly. They have then pulled projects out of the state. They have solid examples of that happening. As a community, you do not want to bypass those rules — in the future they may not bring us projects. ... It can be very damaging." 

And the reason she says Tyson chose to look elsewhere in Kansas has nothing to do with if they heard from Newton or not — and everything with what Newton had to offer the company, both now and in the future.

"The reason the Department of Ag told us we were eliminated is they were looking at long-term water supply," Shelton said. "We have the capacity for them now, but they wanted a dual water source, which we don't have."

The company has been searching for a new site since it put plans on hold in September for building a plant outside Tonganoxie. Opposition in the northeastern Kansas community of about 5,300 people caused local officials there to back off support for the project. When a proposed project in Leavenworth County was blocked by local officials after protests from the public, Harvey County was one of the first groups to step forward to investigate possibly having the plant located in their area.

Last week a group called "No Tyson Wichita" hosted a meeting called "Getting Our Chickens in a Row" to talk with "farmers and issue experts about the health, environmental, air/water quality and economic risks of the planned Tyson industrial-sized chicken operation."

If the facility ends up in Sedgwick County, it could mean jobs and some benefit for Harvey County.

"If it lands in Sedgwick County, we would benefit from it," Shelton said. "This will reach out 60 to 90 miles would. That be the reach with the feeder (farm) network and the supply network they need."

She is, however, not sitting still in relation to the Kansas Logistics Park.

This week she is working on yet another new proposal as work to find the park's first tenant continues.

"I have shown the park to several prospects this quarter," Shelton said. "There is one that came in right now that I think will be a great fit and I am responding to the state on it."

Prospects continue to look, but no one has signed on the dotted line. Thus far, Shelton said, while the number of projects worked by the EDC has increased the right mix of land price, utility price, tax abatements, incentives and the right project for the community just has not come together.

"We have a great site, with a great location and great infrastructure," Shelton said.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report