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Carroll County Approves Incentives for New Tyson Foods Plant

4 min read

The Carroll County Quorum Court judge this week authorized incentives that will help Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale build its first new plant in years.

The publicly traded meat processor announced the project last week. The company plans to build a $136 million, 200,000-SF processing plant across the street from an existing Tyson plant in Green Forest, with a corridor connecting the two.

Tyson says the project will bring about 85 jobs to the county, where it already employs more than 2,600 people; it hopes to complete the plant in late 2017. Green Forest Mayor Charles Reece said the company plans to break ground in July.

The new plant will process partially cooked foods, and most will go to foodservice customers, according to Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman.

By unanimous vote on Tuesday, the Carroll County Quorum Court advised County Judge Sam Barr to grant the company a 10-year tax abatement and authorize 10-year revenue bonds for the project. Tyson will pay 40 percent of the taxes due to the county in exchange for the abatement. 

The company also qualifies for an InvestArk sales and use tax credit from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

Scott Hardin, an AEDC spokesman, said the tax credit is provided on a statutory basis to companies that qualify. Tyson qualifies because it’s been in Arkansas for two years or more and is investing $5 million or more in new construction, expansion or modernization, he said.

Hardin said the credit is 7 percent of the amount the company is spending — about $9.5 million. But Hardin said Tyson might not get that much because the 7 percent only applies to certain eligible project expenditures. 

Tyson has to apply for the credit, give AEDC its estimated expenditures, and then submit receipts to the state Department of Finance and Administration, he said.

“This incentive is a really strong retention tool,” Hardin said. “It encourages the companies that are already in the state to not only remain here, but to continue to grow their operations, and Tyson Foods is the state’s third largest employer.”

Tyson employs about 23,000 people in Arkansas, according to Arkansas Business’ most recent list of the state’s largest employers.

Hardin called the deal a “win-win” and said Tyson has received InvestArk credits for past projects.

‘We Love Them’

County Judge Barr said Tyson would save “quite a bit” with the abatement, but added that he didn’t know what those savings would be or what the company’s payments to the county would amount to yet.

“The [revenue] bonds will go to the county, and then we’ll lease them back to Tyson and Tyson will make the payments and we’ll be under no obligation, is the way [the process] was explained to me,” he said.

The county will hire bond attorneys and hold a public hearing as soon as possible, Barr said.

“We have lots of money in the county come from Tyson,” Barr said. “We love them, and we hope we keep them for many years to come.” 

There are two Tyson plants in the county, one in Green Forest and another in Berryville. The county’s unemployment rate was 5.2 percent in February, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Mayor Reece said officials are reviewing infrastructure to make sure the city is ready for the new plant. He plans to meet with Tyson in a few weeks to discuss any necessary improvements.

Tyson said the existing Green Forest plant employs about 1,250 and generates an annual payroll of $37 million. Originally built by Franz Foods in 1959, Tyson Foods purchased the Green Forest plant in 1967. 

Tyson said the Green Forest plant produces a variety of partially cooked chicken products for foodservice and retail customers, including nuggets and portioned fillets. The project will increase the facility’s partially cooked capacity, increasing efficiency by reducing transportation of products to other locations for further processing, the company said.

The new plant will not change the number of chickens raised for operations in Carroll County. Tyson said family farms were paid more than $29 million in 2015 to raise chickens for the company’s operations in that county.

“This project would allow us to better serve our foodservice customers through improved product mix and greater efficiencies,” said Noel White, president of poultry for Tyson Foods, in a news release. “This is the first new plant construction project Tyson Foods has proposed to build in a number of years.”

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