Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Sept. 5 announced that Tyson Foods would build a chicken processing plant in Tonganoxie. The plant was expected to create 1,500 jobs, but there was some public opposition. Allison Long The Kansas City Star
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Sept. 5 announced that Tyson Foods would build a chicken processing plant in Tonganoxie. The plant was expected to create 1,500 jobs, but there was some public opposition. Allison Long The Kansas City Star

Politics & Government

Sedgwick County is a finalist for Tyson plant

By Jonathan Shorman

jshorman@wichitaeagle.com

October 18, 2017 06:51 PM

UPDATED October 19, 2017 09:54 AM

Sedgwick County is one of three finalists for a massive Tyson Foods processing plant that was originally slated for northeast Kansas before it encountered significant opposition there.

The Greater Wichita Partnership confirmed the county is one of the finalists.

“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,” said Jaimie Garnett, a spokeswoman for the Partnership.

In addition to Sedgwick County, Cloud County in north-central Kansas also identified itself as a finalist on Wednesday. And the Montgomery County Chronicle reported that Montgomery County in southeast Kansas is also a finalist.

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Tyson had wanted to build a $320 million poultry complex with 1,600 jobs near Tonganoxie. The company announced its plans in September but quickly withdrew amid local opposition.

Opponents to the plant in Tonganoxie voiced environmental concerns and also questioned how the influx of more than 1,000 workers would affect the town of 5,300.

Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell said he supports locating the plant in the county and that it would have the support of municipalities and farm groups.

“They know that having a long-term investment of a major national corporation would be a good thing for Sedgwick County, particularly when we are trying our hardest to diversify ourselves from aviation manufacturing,” O’Donnell said.

@SedgwickCounty would like @TysonFoods 1500+ jobs! @TysonFoodsCEO please come visit us - we are open for business! #ksleg @TysonFoodsLive https://t.co/rf6bSRTtKO

— Michael O'Donnell (@MichaelKansas) September 19, 2017

Tyson backed away from Tonganoxie after the county government withdrew support for bonds to support the project. Doug Ramsey, Tyson’s poultry president, said it would “prioritize other locations in Kansas and other states that have expressed support.”

Since then, Tyson has been searching for another Kansas site. Heather Lansdowne, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Agriculture, said between 35 and 40 communities expressed interest and 16 submitted proposals.

KDA sent the 16 proposals to Tyson, which came back with three finalists.

Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman said the company is glad that several communities reached out to KDA to express interest.

“Today, we can tell you that KDA has helped us narrow the search to a few communities that offer the infrastructure, labor pool, farmer interest and land required for this investment,” Sparkman said in a statement.

Tyson won’t share additional project details because the company is still reviewing the communities, he said.

Garnett said the Greater Wichita Partnership looked forward to a dialogue with Tyson. But she emphasized that no decisions had been made.

“We are excited to continue with this process and discuss this potential project with Tyson,” Garnett said.

Cloud County said it was “pleased that Tyson sees what we’ve always known: North Central Kansas is an ideal location for big agriculture projects,” CloudCorp director Ashley Hutchinson said in a statement.

Jonathan Shorman: 785-296-3006, @jonshorman