TOPEKA — Tyson Foods announced plans Monday to build a $300 million chicken production and processing complex in western Tennessee after a nearly identical proposal for development of poultry facilities in Tonganoxie was rejected by residents.
Gov. Sam Brownback and municipal government officials in Kansas disclosed framework of a poultry partnership with Tyson in early September, but public opposition led the county commission to withdraw financial support and for the company to spike the Tonganoxie plan. The Arkansas-based company gravitated toward investment in Humboldt, Tenn., and moved to a back burner pursuit of a large chicken operation in Kansas.
“They are very similar. Our Kansas project is on hold. We’ve decided to move forward with this Tennessee project,” Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman said in an interview.
He said the company would consider sites in Kansas and other states for potential expansion of its poultry business to meet rising demand for chicken.
Both the Tennessee and Kansas business endeavors were marketed with the same features. Both would generate a minimum of 1,500 jobs, require investment of at least $300 million, open in 2019, process 1.25 million birds each week, produce pre-packaged trays of fresh chicken for retail grocery stores, depend on a network of local farmers to raise the chickens and benefit from government incentives.
Just as in Tonganoxie, Tyson said the company would operate a new processing plant, hatchery and feed mill. Another parallel: Tyson said Kansas and Tennessee projects would have an estimated $150 million economic impact on host states.
Doug Ramsey, group president of Poultry for Tyson Foods, said the location in Tennessee was attractive for the same reasons Kansas was identified earlier as a site of a new chicken complex. Tyson’s facility in Tennessee is to be located in an industrial park less than 100 miles from Memphis.
“The location is attractive to us because of the strong support we’ve received from state and local leaders, the existing industrial park and availability of labor, as well as access to feed grains produced in the region,” Ramsey said.
Heather Lansdowne, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Agriculture, said state officials were aware Tyson was interested in building large poultry production and processing facilities in more than one state.
“We look forward to continuing to work with Tyson Foods as they further evaluation expansion of their poultry business unit growth opportunities in Kansas,” she said.
After Tyson placed the Tonganoxie plant project on hold in September, Kansas officials tried to interest the company in alternative locations in the state. The list of potential sites was narrowed to Cloud County in north-central Kansas, Montgomery County in southeastern Kansas, and Sedgwick County in south-central Kansas.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam praised Tyson during a news conference, offering comments similar to those of Brownback when plans for a Kansas chicken facility were unveiled.
“I want to thank Tyson Foods for choosing Humboldt as the location for its new operations and for creating more than 1,500 new jobs in Gibson County,” Haslam said. “The new facility will be Tyson’s fifth location in Tennessee, and it means a great deal that a company of this magnitude will continue to grow its footprint in our state.”