08/19/10 — Chicken plant might cross road

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Chicken plant might cross road

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 19, 2010 1:46 PM

Mississippi-based Sanderson Farms has expanded its search for a new plant site outside of Wayne County, sources say, possibly to an area near Rocky Mount.

The company is looking for more than 600 acres of land on which to build a $94 million chicken deboning facility that would employ up to 1,100 people.

John Gessaman, president of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership in Rocky Mount, said he could not comment on whether the Rocky Mount area is under consideration. Gateway is a public-private industrial recruitment agency for economic development in Nash and Edgecombe counties.

Meanwhile, Wayne County industrial recruiters have not given up. Sanderson officials said several months ago they were looking for a site in northern Wayne.

"We know Wayne County is still in the mix," said Joanna Helms, president of the Wayne County Development Alliance. "We are aware they are expanded their search outside of Wayne County. We are still in communication with them on a regular basis."

It is not unusual for a company to expand its site search, she said.

Sanderson, which already has a chicken plant under construction just outside Kinston, has very specific site requirements, she said.

Sanderson officials could not be reached for comment prior to press time this morning. However, Joe Sanderson Jr., Sanderson CEO and chairman, has said that construction could begin in March if the land can be found -- 100 acres for the plant itself and between 400 and 500 acres for a hay spray field -- and that it could begin operation in June 2012 and to be at full capacity within 15 months after that.

The second 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.

Sanderson said he did not know when a site would be found, but that "we need to get those sites quickly" so that it can begin the permitting process for a well and the spray field.

Sanderson Farms is the fourth-largest poultry company in the country, processing about eight million chickens a week.

The company did $1.8 billion in sales last year. Sanderson posted net sales of $487 million for the quarter and earnings of $35 million, a record for the company.