Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale on Thursday announced plans to move 300 workers into a new two-story, 44,000-SF building in downtown Springdale.
The building, scheduled to be complete in 2017, will sit on property now occupied by the company's original headquarters building and an adjacent structure formerly known as the Brown Hatchery building at 319 and 317 E. Emma Ave.
John Tyson, the chairman of the board, spoke at the announcement — which culminated in a ceremonial wrecking-ball smash of the building — and said he was happy Tyson would have a place on Emma, where his grandfather, John W. Tyson, started as a truck driver back in 1935.
"Springdale has been a cornerstone for my granddad, for my dad and for myself," Tyson said. "We don’t have many [employees] on Emma Street. Today, we come back home. Downtown Springdale is where we started."
Tyson said the plans for the construction are still being finalized but the general idea is to build a two-story, 44,000-SF building that connects to the original storefronts of the existing buildings on Emma. Tyson said the company will move about 300 employees to the site when the work is done.
Tyson said the company hasn't determined which workers will move downtown, but the group will likely include employees from departments scattered among five Tyson Foods office complexes in northwest Arkansas. Tyson suggested that workers from the company's engineering, safety and insurance divisions could move.
He also announced that the company plans to move about 75 workers to run the company store at the JTL Building at 516 E. Emma. The renovation of the 28,000-SF building is underway and is scheduled to be completed in spring 2016.
"It’s to create an opportunity for Emma Street to be what it is, what it can be and what it will be," John Tyson said.
The plans are part of the meat processor's commitment to help rebuild downtown Springdale. In January, the company donated $1 million to the Downtown Springdale Alliance.
"The purpose of the donation is to help jumpstart the growth and revitalization of downtown," Tyson said. "Our vision for the area involves more than just remodeling some buildings and moving part of our workforce downtown. Our vision and our desire … is for downtown Springdale to become a regional hub for innovation with a focus on the natural assets of this great town. We’re still working on the details of what that will look like."
Tyson and city leaders — Mayor Doug Sprouse, Chamber of Commerce President Perry Webb and Alliance President Carl George — were speakers at the ceremony, which was held on the street in front of the two stores.
Officials spoke of the Downtown Master Plan, which is still in production and calls for about $20.5 million in improvements. The project came to life with the opening of the Razorback Greenway, a 36-mile multiuse trail from Fayetteville to Bella Vista. Part of the trail, which opened last year, snakes through downtown Springdale alongside Spring Creek.
Tyson Foods bought properties along Emma Avenue last year, telling the city that it planned to move offices downtown. Springdale Downtown LLC, led by members of the Walton family, bought the San Jose Manor building on Emma in May 2014.
Sprouse told Arkansas Business last year that the interest shown by Tyson and the Walton families helped create momentum for downtown revitalization.
"Hopefully, this will be the first of many, many announcements that will build on this," Tyson said on Thursday. "We’re simply excited to be part of the past, but we’re more excited about being a part of the future."
Tyson Foods Inc. employs more than 113,000 people, including 6,000 people in Springdale and about 23,000 people in Arkansas. John Tyson said about 1,000 people work in northwest Arkansas but not at the main campus on Don Tyson Parkway, and the renovated and expanded property at 317-319 Emma would give the company a chance to centralize a significant portion of those employees.