HUMBOLDT, Tenn. (AP) — Tyson Foods Inc. plans to build a new chicken production complex in Tennessee, a $300 million project that is expected to create more than 1,500 jobs when the facility begins operations in late 2019, the company said Monday.
The new plant in Humboldt will produce pre-packaged trays of fresh chicken for retail grocery stores nationwide, the Springdale, Arkansas-based company said in a statement and a news conference. The plant will help it meet strong consumer demand for its chicken, the company said. Construction is expected to begin within three to six months.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker attended the news conference and praised Tyson for choosing Humboldt, a rural city of about 8,200 people located about 85 miles (135 kilometers) northeast of Memphis. Tennessee competed with other states for the project. Doug Ramsey, group president of poultry for Tyson, would not discuss which other states were in the mix.
Officials said the local agriculture community will benefit from the project, providing supplies and feed for the plant, which will feature a hatchery, processing facility and feed mill. Tyson's project will be built at a 500-acre (200-hectare) Gibson County industrial park that's been seeking a tenant for about 20 years, county mayor Tom Witherspoon said.
"It's rare that you get a manufacturing project that has such an impact on our agriculture community," Witherspoon said. "That's what's made it such a good project for Gibson County."
Ramsey said the existing industrial park, availability of labor and access to feed grains produced in the region, were reasons why Tyson chose Gibson County
Haslam said that while unemployment in Tennessee is low — at 3 percent as of September — "it's no news that some of our rural counties have struggled." He called the plant a "big deal" for the state.
"Agriculture is a big part of who we are," Haslam said. "So we combine our farmers' ability to contribute to this facility with the jobs that will be located here."
Tyson currently operates four facilities in the state, employing about 5,000 people. The company says it paid Tennessee farmers more than $61 million in the 2016 fiscal year.
The announcement marks the second major economic development project Tyson has begun this year in Tennessee. In August, the company announced an $84 million expansion of operations in Union City. That project is expected to create about 300 jobs.
The company's portfolio of products includes Tyson chicken, Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm and Ball Park.