There was most assuredly a deep and collective exhale by Clearwater residents on Thursday, after it was announced that Sedgwick County would not be in the running for a Tyson Foods poultry processing plant.
Exhales came from other parts of the county, too, particularly anywhere a Tyson plant was rumored to be located.
Then there were deep breaths of fresh, cold, non-chicken-smelling Kansas air.
It looks like the county’s involvement as one of three finalists for the plant that Tonganoxie vetoed is over. It was 58 days of yard signs, Facebook groups, hash tags, letters to the editor — we’re going to miss those, but plenty of other topics exist! — and enough research about poultry processing to make you bypass the fresh chicken section of the grocery store for a few weeks.
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And 58 days of the county and Greater Wichita Partnership listening to its residents. They saw the strong and dedicated opposition from residents, especially those who worried about the plant being located near their homes.
The announcement from Greater Wichita Partnership pointed to a lack of support for incentives needed to lure the plant to the country. But let’s be real, it wasn’t the incentives. It was the worry about water pollution, an odor, and the social impact of raising and slaughtering millions of chickens annually. Residents concerned about any or all of those factors came together in an impressive display of protest.
It can’t be easy for Sedgwick County and Wichita’s private economic development group to shoo away a $300 million investment and 1,600 jobs. But enough county residents took a passionate and vocal stand. Not here, not now.