The project initially had support of the local authorities. However, following a meeting of Leavenworth County commissioners, it was decided to rescind a “resolution of intent” to issue $500 million in industrial revenue bonds to build the facility.
Tyson has expressed disappointment at the decision to withdraw support. “We’re disappointed by the commission’s reversal on revenue bonds,” said Worth Sparkman, a spokesman for Tyson. “The commission’s prior approval was part of state and local efforts to persuade Tyson Foods to locate in Leavenworth County. It was one of the factors we considered when determining where to locate our new poultry complex. We’re evaluating our options in light of the vote.”
The project, announced earlier this month, was scheduled to begin construction in mid-2019, and produce pre-packaged trays of fresh chicken for retail grocery stores nationwide. It would have employed approximately 1,600 people and been capable of processing 1.25 million birds per week, increasing Tyson Foods’ overall production capacity. The payroll and payments to farmers from the new operation, along with its purchase of grain and utilities, was expected to generate an annual economic benefit to the state of Kansas of $150m.
The plan had attracted criticism from some local residents who set up ‘No Tyson in Tongie’ on the grounds that “Tyson Foods has a poor history of unethical treatment of its employees, inhumane treatment of animals, water and air pollution, over-stressing school and city/county resources, and decreasing home values”.
In an open letter to Leavenworth County Community following the commissioners’ decision, Doug Ramsey, group president of poultry at Tyson, wrote: “We’d still like to get to know each other. However, after Monday’s reversal of support by the Leavenworth County commissioners, we will put our plans in your community on hold. We still have interest in Leavenworth County, but will prioritise the other locations in Kansas and other states that have expressed support.
“Over 5,700 Tyson Foods ‘team members’ are proud to live and work in Kansas. We care about each other, our communities and our company. We successfully operate six facilities in the state, provide thousands of good paying jobs and generate an annual economic impact of about $2.4 billion in Kansas.
“We were invited by state and local leaders to build a new $320m poultry complex in your community. They encouraged us to come to Leavenworth County. In a show of support, the county commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to use industrial revenue bonds for the project. We saw this shared investment, and the $150m in annual economic impact it would have, as a win for the company and the people of Leavenworth County.”