Weeks ahead of the expected reopening of the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Holcomb, the location's employee base is stable, Tyson community liaison Pat Sanders told locals Friday.

"Our turnover is next to nothing since the fire. We've just been so impressed," said Sanders, who was moderating a panel at the city's Multicultural Summit about Tyson's collaboration with local workers from other countries.

The Holcomb plant has been closed since a fire damaged its west end, including portions of its electric and hydraulics system. As the company completes repairs, reconstruction and renovations, full-time employees have returned to work on a reduced schedule, often attending weekly meetings and working about one day a week, according to multiple employees. Tyson guaranteed all full-time employees who report to work their normal pay for 40 hours a week, regardless of hours worked. Part-time employees were not given a pay guarantee.

In response to a summit attendee's question, Sanders said the plant will reopen and resume normal operations by the end of the year. Tyson Fresh Meats President Steve Stouffer presented a similar timeline in a September update for the public.

"And hopefully it will be sooner than that..." Sanders said. "They're very close and we're excited."

She said she expects an official announcement by next week.

Sanders told The Telegram that while employees have left the Holcomb plant since August for personal or family reasons, she can't remember any leaving because of the fire or temporary closure. Though the plant's usual open hiring processes have been adjusted to meet the current needs of the downed plant, the local has continued taking on some new workers since August, she said.

"We've been hiring. We never stopped..." Sanders told The Telegram. "But I think we're going to be ready to start up without any special hiring ... We'll continue what we're doing, but we're not going to have to do any kind of mass recruiting in order to staff the plant," Sanders said.

Portions of the plant are up and running now, though operations vary from day to day, Sanders told the Telegram. Employees have been working on the plant's interior and exterior for months, repainting sections of the building damaged by smoke and cleaning up all areas, she said.

"We're the cleanest plant in the world right now," Sanders joked at the summit.


Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.