Poultry plant proposed

US81 corridor, including Republic County lends support to Tyson bid

By Deb Hadachek Telescope editor

A chance that egg money could once again provide an economic boost for local farm families is being pursued by CloudCorp, the Cloud County economic development agency.

CloudCorp announced plans last week to compete for the Tyson chicken project, a multi-million dollar facility that includes a hatchery, feed mill and plant capable of processing more than one million birds per week. Tyson says its project would generate annual economic impact to Kansas of $150 million.

Ashley Hutchinson, CloudCorp executive director, said she knew at least 30 other Kansas communities have expressed interest in inviting Tyson to locate in their region.

“We’re steeped in reality,” she said. “We know we have a one in 30 chance to make the cut to another phase.

“But, we believe we have a better chance of landing an agricultural project here,” she said.

“What makes this location attractive is our access to corn, and ag communities that understand big ag.”

CloudCorp secured letters of support from Republic County and Saline County officials, and is billing its proposal as the region along the US81 corridor.

The plant would create more than 1,500 jobs. Additionally, the plant would need a growers network across the region, Hutchinson said.

“A recent labor study shows there is a workforce in a 60-minute drive of this region of more than 50,000 people,” Hutchinson said. “Of that number 2,000 are unemployed.

“We think this can provide jobs for people.”

Hutchinson said CloudCorp has identified a site near Concordia that meets the demands of the facility.

Tonganoxie rejects

Development Director Luke Mahin said his board has not been actively involved in the CloudCorp bid other than to provide a letter of support.

CloudCorp and other Kansas communities expressed interest in the plant after Leavenworth County leaders pulled their support for incentives for a plant announced in September near Tonganoxie.

Tyson planned to put the plant on 300 acres south of Tonganoxie and north of Interstate 70 and have chicken houses within a 50-mile radius, but an outcry from local residents led Leavenworth County Commissioners to vote 2-1 to rescind a “resolution of intent” to back the project with $500 million in industrial revenue bonds, reports the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Tyson officials said after that vote they are still interested in Leavenworth County, but would also “prioritize the other locations in Kansas and other states that have expressed support.”

Josh Roe, deputy secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture, who is working with Tyson to locate the plant in Kansas, said 32 communities have expressed interest or asked for information.

The KDA is working with Tyson to help evaluate proposals.


Let’s slow down before we get excited about 1,500 new jobs

Fred Arnold – Publisher

Probably by now most of our readers have heard and discussed the possibility of a Tyson Chicken Project in our area.

Cloud County Economic Development has decided to compete for a plant that could be a significant job creator.

In a news release to the Telescope, the project “along the US 81 Corridor includes a multi-million dollar facility that is expected to employ between 1,500 and 1,700 workers.”

Before we get too excited we need to take a step back. Economic development is not a horse race. Building business and industry is more like a cross-country race: methodical, at a steady pace, ever moving forward.

I think there are a lot of questions that should be asked and a ton of research that needs to be done before or area goes “all in” and everyone gets too excited too quickly about something that may or may not happen.

Frankly the statement of “1,500 to 1,700 new jobs” scared the bejeebers out of me.

I think you could go from Thayer County on the north down 81 to Saline County on the south and not find 1,500 people who are in search of a job. That would mean importing people…a LOT of people. Can area infrastructure handle such a demand? What about housing? What about schools? What about municipal services? Are cities up and down 81 capable of handling such an influx?

I’ve spent a lot of years involved in economic development and there are two things I can tell you for sure: 1. you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a princess, and, 2. slow and steady growth is much better than a huge fish.

I have always said 20 businesses that employ five people each is more lucrative to a community than one business that employs 100.

Having said that, it will be interesting to see how this “fishing trip” ends up for CloudCorp.

This newspaper applauds any group or entity that seeks to grow, develop and expand. There are a lot of positive things happening in our region and we are excited to be living through this time.

Let’s just not get all wound up about 1,500 new jobs just yet, ok?