06/24/10 — Will plant locate down the highway?

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Will plant locate down the highway?

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 24, 2010 1:46 PM

Wayne County officials say rumors are unfounded that Mississippi-based Sanderson Farms has reached a final decision on building a $94 million chicken deboning facility in the county -- a plant that could employ up to 1,100 people.

"That is not true," said Joanna Helms, president of the Wayne County Development Alliance. "They are still in the site identification phase. They continue to look at sites all over the county. This piece is really out of our hands."

County Manager Lee Smith said he has heard the same rumors.

"Nothing has been confirmed yet," he said. "We have not received any word."

Smith said the county officials have tried to be careful in their comments so as to not to get people's expectations up.

The company is looking at several sites in the county that it would like to explore, Mrs. Helms said.

"We had really hoped the site selection would have been completed by the first of June," she said.

Not only does a site have to be available, it also must be suitable for the development and the company's "very specific criteria," she said.

Mrs. Helms said that the company's Kinston project is "moving along well."

That plant is under construction on U.S. 70 East just outside Kinston.

If built, the Goldsboro project would consist of an expansion of the feed mill for the Kinston plant, a hatchery, a processing plant with capacity to process 1.25 million "big bird" chickens per week and a wastewater treatment facility.

Word that Wayne County was being considered for the plant first surfaced in March in a Sanderson March press release announcing a stock offering. A requirement of such an offering is specifying how proceeds from the stock offering would be used.

According to the press release, net proceeds from the stock offering, along with "other funds" would be used to finance the Kinston project and a "potential new big bird complex" near Goldsboro.

A Wayne County plant could employ about 1,100 people, require about 150 contract growers, and be equipped to process and sell 8.9 million pounds of dressed meat per week.

The plan hinges on several factors, including state and local economic incentives and obtaining the property and permits, company officials have said.

Sanderson Farms' lenders also would have to sign off on any change to the company's revolving credit agreement.

If the conditions are met, construction could begin in the second quarter of fiscal year 2011, with operations starting in the third quarter of fiscal year 2012.

According to Sanderson's website, the company is one of the nation's leading food corporations, with annual sales of more than $1.789 billion.

Sanderson has plants in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Georgia that process more than 8.125 million chickens per week. It also has six feed mills and seven hatcheries.

The company was founded 1947, was incorporated in 1955 and is the fourth-largest poultry producer in the U.S. and employs more than 10,000 workers and utilizes 770 independent growers.