01/03/11 — County still in hunt for new plant

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County still in hunt for new plant

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on January 3, 2011 1:46 PM

Company officials couldn't be reached for comment last week, but Wayne County Development Alliance Executive Director Joanna Helms said Wayne County appears to still be in the running for a new Sanderson Farms poultry processing plant.

At least, she said, she hasn't been told anything to the contrary, and the Alliance is in regular communication with the company as it continues its search process, focusing now on potential sites in Nash County.

"I can definitely say we spent several months looking at sites with them in Wayne County," Mrs. Helms said. "But as to where we stand in the process, I don't know."

She did admit, though, that the decision-making process for the poultry producer has gone on longer than she originally expected. The project first appeared on the county's radar sometime in March 2010, and a decision had been expected before the end of the year.

Mrs. Helms said she could not talk much about the sites that were looked at in Wayne County, other than that they were all over the county, including in the northern end -- an area that company officials had mentioned specifically earlier in the process.

"Their requirement is for a very large site, which most likely would have to be a conglomeration of multiple sites," she said.

Approximately 100 to 200 acres would be needed for the plant, and another 1,000 acres would be needed for the plant's spray field.

She explained that much of what they were doing with the company was looking at various potential sites, talking to property owners, analyzing existing and potential infrastructure and performing soil and water tests.

"Projects like this take a perfect scenario to locate, and I know we did the due diligence necessary with them in Wayne County, and now they're doing their due diligence in Nash County, and they will make a decision about what makes the most business sense for them. I think they're looking at all their choices," she said.

If it locates here, the Laurel, Miss.-based poultry producer, which already has one plant near Kinston, would create upwards of about 1,100 jobs and an investment of about $94 million.

"I don't know what their time frame is now," she said. "But I am still in communication with them. No decision has been made yet."

But, she said, that doesn't mean that the Alliance and the county is just sitting around waiting on them.

"For a project this large, this is pretty typical. I'm not real concerned over when it happens at this point. We've done our due diligence and all they've asked of us so far," she said. "It was a major part of what we've been working on, but we've been just as busy on other efforts as well. The competition is too stiff to just go after one project at a time."