Tyson Backs Out of Kansas Town

Decision Comes After County Pulls Plug on Bond Support

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Tyson is searching for a new location for a chicken-processing plant after announcing it is pulling the plug on the proposed Tonganoxie, Kansas, site. (File photo courtesy of Mississippi State University Ag Communications)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Tyson Foods has decided not to build a chicken-processing plant near Tonganoxie, Kansas, announcing in an open letter to the community that it will pursue other locations.

The Leavenworth County, Kansas, Board of Commissions voted Monday to pull support for about $500 million in bonds to build the plant.

In an open letter to Leavenworth County residents late Tuesday, Tyson Group President for Poultry Doug Ramsey said the company will pull its proposal to build a plant near Tonganoxie, Kansas, and move on to other areas of the state or even another state altogether.

"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," Ramsey said in the letter.

"We still have interest in Leavenworth County, but will prioritize the other locations in Kansas and other states that have expressed support. This is a good project that we are deeply passionate about. It's important to the future of our company and our ability to serve our customers. We also believe it will be a significant boost -- and not just economically -- for the right community."

Area residents had raised objections to the project, pointing to Tyson's environmental record and numerous other concerns about what the plant would mean to the community.

Ramsey said its 5,700 employees already in Kansas at six facilities "are proud to live and work in Kansas.

"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. This goes back decades and in some cases we've been growing with our Kansas communities for over 50 years. Given our success here it made a lot of sense to consider new growth plans in Kansas.

Ramsey said the company was "invited by state and local leaders to build a new $320 million poultry complex" in Leavenworth County.

"In a show of support, the county commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to use industrial revenue bonds for the project," Ramsey said in the letter.

"We saw this shared investment, and the $150 million in annual economic impact it would have, as a win for the company and the people of Leavenworth County. Given the scope of our project, we knew there would be questions and recognized that you would have an important voice in the decision-making process. That's why we met with some of you after our initial announcement, planned more meetings and offered community leaders a chance to see our facilities first hand. Unfortunately, we've not been able to reach as many of you as quickly as we had hoped. As a result, most of you haven't gotten to know us very well."

Ramsey offered a number of bullet points in the letter, describing Tyson's approach.

"We are a diverse team that shares core values that call us to operate with integrity and respect," Ramsey said in the letter. "Delivering sustainable food at scale is at the heart of our strategy, we share a comprehensive sustainability report every year and have recently made significant commitments to healthier workplaces, healthier animals and a healthier environment.

"We operate under a team member bill of rights and provide competitive wages as well as benefits that include health insurance, retirement savings and stock purchase programs, tuition reimbursement, paid vacation and holidays.

"Tyson Foods was recognized in 2017 by Fortune magazine as No. 1 on the world's most admired companies list in the food production segment."

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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(AG)

Todd Neeley