Cloud County Site Named One of Three Finalists for a Planned Multi-Million Dollar Tyson Foods Poultry Complex

By Toby Nosker
KNCK News Director

CloudCorp was notified Tuesday, October 17th by the Kansas Department of Agriculture that a site near Concordia has been selected as one of three finalists for a planned multi-million dollar Tyson Foods poultry complex. The facility is to include a hatchery, feed mill and chicken processing plant.

At the end of September, CloudCorp, in partnership with entities throughout the US Highway 81 Corridor, submitted a proposal to the Kansas Department of Agriculture to compete for the project after Tyson Foods withdrew their plans to construct a chicken facility outside of Tonganoxie, a town about 15 miles northeast of Lawrence, after public outcry and a decision by local leaders to retreat from promised incentives.

The completed $320 million Tyson Foods plant, which will supply retail customers throughout the country with tray-packed fresh chicken, is expected to employ 1,500-1,700 workers and will have the capacity to process 1.25 million chickens per week.

During a press conference Wednesday, October 18th, CloudCorp Executive Director Ashley Hutchinson said they're expecting to spend the next two months working closely with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, Kansas Department of Commerce and the Kansas Department of Transportation looking at every aspect of their proposed site and Cloud County's package to ensure they are properly informed and ready for the complex.

"We have a couple of months to really solidify our proposal, work with our community members and come up with a really good plan, an incentive package, and present that to Tyson hopefully at the beginning of the new year," Hutchinson told KNCK News.

She also said they are having conversations with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, who is tasked with protecting and improving the health and environment of all Kansans.

"This is going to be very much a state of the art facility," Hutchinson told us. "It's a top, top priority to make sure that we're not seeing anything in wastewater that we shouldn't be."

"I think it's also important to remember for folks that this is the most heavily regulated industry in the United States. You're not only dealing with EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), but you're dealing with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). You have federal inspectors that are paid to be in this place every single day," Hutchinson added. "A company as big as Tyson has a giant target on them, per se. And that's a good thing. It makes sure that we're safe. The food we're eating is safe. And it makes sure that they are really on top of them for environmental concerns."

More than 30 Kansas communities expressed interest in the plant, that is expected to generate an annual economic impact to Kansas of $150 million. While the Kansas Department of Agriculture will not publicly disclose the other two finalist locations, KSN-TV in Wichita says Sedgwick County has also been chosen as a finalist.

Hutchinson told KNCK News she wants to be very open with people about this project.

"We think the best avenue is to have an open line of communication," Hutchinson said. "I also need a giant team to really accurately look at every single aspect of this, and a giant team means that they are going to be out there talking in the community. And I want to make sure that our folks know that they've been told up front what we're doing. And we made that commitment when we got started with the project."

She said their team consists of the City of Concordia, USD 333 Concordia, Cloud County Community College, the economic development teams in Republic County and Saline County, among others. The team also involves the Northwest Kansas Economic Innovation Center, Inc. a private foundation established to benefit Northwest Kansas that works in concert with the Dane G. Hansen Foundation.

Ashley said she's pleased they've been able to organize a great, aggressive team that's excited about the project.

"Our team (will be) handling the educational aspect, the infrastructure, and then folks who are handling site issues -- the roads to get to the site, the wastewater, water, electricity, telecom, gas line, everything you can imagine to making sure that we are 100% shovel-ready," Hutchinson said Wednesday. "That will be happening in the next couple of months."

CloudCorp also announced this week that they've identified 500-acres of land for the Tyson Foods complex. The land, located south and east of the Cloud County Fairgrounds in Concordia, was planned 11-years ago to be the home of Everton Energy LLC's proposed $170 million ethanol plant that never materialized.