County's action could help pave way for $50 million Tyson Feed Mill project

Public hearing set May 22 on tax abatement, reinvestment zone request

A step in the process of paving the way for Tyson Foods to eventually locate a new feed mill in Shelby County is set next week when county officials have scheduled a public hearing dealing with the company's proposal.

The Shelby County Commissioners' Court has scheduled a 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, May 22, public hearing on adopting tax abatement guidelines for Shelby County, designating a reinvestment zone by Shelby County and approving a tax abatement agreement between Tyson Foods and Shelby County.

The hearing is scheduled for the third floor of the Shelby County Courthouse, 200 San Augustine Street. An item related to considering a tax abatement for the project was on the commissioners' court agenda a few weeks ago but was tabled when Commissioner Roscoe McSwain said until Tyson had the property secured the county could not move forward with establishing an abatement on property taxes.

A request earlier this week from Tyson corporate communications and media office on the topic have not been responded to.

In February, Tyson Foods representatives announced plans to construct a new feed mill outside the Center city limits south of town for a $50 million-plus plant which could eventually employ 42 workers. At that meeting Jan Nash, with Tyson's tax accounting department in Springdale, Arkansas, said company officials have been working on tentative plans for the plant for more than a year.

“The project was originally budgeted for $40 million-to-$51 million but now we're looking at probably a $51 million to $52 million investment,” she said. “There will be 42 team members working at the site.”

Those workers would be comprised of both truck drivers and mill workers, Nash said.

She said Tyson would like to start construction on the mill as soon as September with an estimated construction time of about 14 months. The mill could be in operation by as soon as December 2020, Nash said.

Nash said among the details still to be worked out ini February for the preferred 300-acre-plus site would be infrastructure and roads.

Nash said the company would be coming back to the commissioners' court at some point in the future to seek tax abatements from the county to help offset the cost of providing Tyson with access to the plant site to have road infrastructure constructed.

Bob Chavis, engineering project manager from Fayetteville, Arkansas, said the preferred site south of Center moved to the top of the options company representatives were looking based on BN railroad access, topography of the site and availability of a site large enough to house the facility.

“We have identified this area because it's next to the BN Railroad so we can take in 110-car units and unload them,” he said. The facility would mill an estimated 14 tons of grain a week to supply company operations at both the Center and Carthage plants.

At the February meeting Chavis said standing in the way of Tyson plans were details of purchasing the necessary property and securing right-of-way so roads and about 8,200 feet of railroad can be constructed to access the mill.

“The biggest thing standing in the way is just access to the property,” Chavis said. He said Tyson officials had at that time been in negotiations with property owners for the tract located south of Loop 500.

Chavis said Tyson officials have looked at numerous potential locations for the feed mill, including some in the Tenaha area and elsewhere in the region. At one point the now preferred site was third on the company's priority list.

He said the company already has contacted potential construction contractors for the project. He said due to the special needs of such a facility, there are only a limited number of firms with experience needed to engineer and oversee construction.

While local subcontractors would likely be involved during site work and construction, he said firms from Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan with experience in the field are working on bidding the project.

In February, Nash said details of what kind of incentives and how much of a tax abatement depends on the company's cost associated with providing access to the proposed feed mill site.