Tyson Foods announces plans for $50 million feed mill in Shelby County

Officals hope to start construction by September with having the plant operational by December 2020

It's not near a done deal but Tyson Foods on Wednesday 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.

The announcement was made during the regular meeting of the Shelby County Commissioners' Court where Tyson Foods representatives from Arkansas were on hand to present details of the company's plans.

Jan Nash, with Tyson's tax accounting department in Springdale, Ark., 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 2012, Nash said.

“We're still trying to work out access to the property,” she said. Nash said among the details still to be worked out for the preferred 300-acre-plus site would be infrastructure and roads.

Nash said the company will 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.

Standing in the way still are 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 have been in negotiations with property owners for the tract located south of Loop 500.

Chavis said Tyson officials have looked a numerous potential locations, 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 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.

Nash said once Tyson has access options and contracts on the needed land firmed up the company plans to come back to seek at least a partial tax abatement from the county to help offset the cost of getting access to the plant site. Details of what kind and how much of a tax abatement depends on the company's cost associated with providing that access.