Somewhere, possibly in Kansas, a $320 million plant expects to bring about 1,600 new jobs.
Montgomery County Action Council Executive Director Trisha Purdon received word from Tyson Foods that Montgomery County has been selected as one of three finalist communities in Kansas for the location of a new, state-of-the-art poultry processing plant.
Purden says, "While this is an encouraging step, it is still early in the final site selection process."
A source confirmed to Eyewitness News Wednesday afternoon that Cloud County and Sedgwick County are also in the running.
“This will be the first new poultry processing plant constructed by Tyson in 20 years. They have outlined for us the enormous advancements they have made in their company in terms of facility design and operational practices and policies to ensure they are generating a quality, safe product in an employee-friendly work environment. The facility will be built to today’s food processing standards, which have changed significantly since the last time a plant like this was built by Tyson Foods, in addition, they are listening to today’s consumer and this plant will be the first of it’s kind, producing only “No Antibiotics Ever” Chicken, which is exciting to see," says Purden.
The Greater Wichita Partnership issued the following response to Wednesday's announcement.
"This is the next phase in the process and will require due diligence and research for both parties as we share more about what makes this a great place to grow a business, and learn more about how this business fits into our community. We will continue to work with other stakeholders throughout this region to offer a consolidated consortium to the company. However, it is important to remember that no decisions have been made at this time. We are excited to continue with this process and discuss this potential project with Tyson."
Cloud County Economic Development, (CloudCorp.) also issued a statement in response to the county's consideration for the plant.
“We are pleased that Tyson sees what we’ve always known: North Central Kansas is an ideal location for big agriculture projects,” said CloudCorp Executive Director Ashley Hutchinson. “We will be working diligently with our community leaders, citizens, and farmers to fully explore this project and find a way to make it work for us.”
Tyson Foods hasn't officially announced the locations its considering and the Kansas Department of Agriculture says it doesn't know what states besides Kansas may be considered for the plant.
What we do know is that the Sedgwick County, Cloud County, and Montgomery County are all still in the game.
"I think it's a great idea," Sedgwick County resident Don Dickson says of the possible local addition of the Tyson chicken plant. "I don't know all the details, but on the surface, I think it's a great idea."
Thursday, Eyewtiness News spoke with Kansas farmers in the Wichita area, also supportive of the plant and the opportunity it brings to diversify their growth.
Area farmers say if Tyson were to come to Sedgwick County, it would be a venue to sell their crop.
"All them chickens have got to have something to eat, so it would be something for us to sell the grain to and, in turn, I think would increase prices," says Mick Roush, President of the Agribusiness Council of Wichita.
Tyson's original plan for Tonganoxie, Kan. included the $320 million facility and 1,600 new jobs. That plan was put on hold after Leavenworth County faced fierce opposition to the plant and pulled its industrial revenue bonds meant to fund the project.
In the following weeks, at least 16 Kansas counties, including Sedgwick, submitted proposals to Tyson for the plant.
After the Kansas Department of Agriculture announced that Tyson narrowed its Kansas possibilities to three, Reno County announced it is no longer in the running for the plant, even though it already houses two separate Tyson plants.
Longtime Sedgwick County resident Fred Cabala says the addition of a Tyson chicken plant would bring welcome diversity to the local economy.
"I've been here since '59, it's always been aircraft," Cabala says. "I'd love to see other industries come in."