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Editorial: Mixed reaction on Tyson plant

The announcement that Tyson Foods will build a poultry processing plant 10 miles from Lawrence near Tonganoxie represents an economic opportunity and also raises valid concerns about the history of such plants in other areas.

From an economic standpoint, the poultry plant is a major investment by Tyson, who will spend an estimated $320 million to build the plant. The plant will employ approximately 1,600 people earning wages of $12 to $15 per hour or $25,000 to $31,000 per year. That’s $40 million to $50 million in annual payroll. The addition of 1,600 private-sector jobs would be one of the most significant projects in recent memory for Northeast Kansas in general and for Tonganoxie and Leavenworth County specifically.

The plant is expected to be operational by 2019. Tyson will contract with Northeast Kansas farmers and ranchers to raise chickens. The processing plant will produce prepackaged trays of fresh chicken to stock retail grocery stores nationwide.

“Growing Kansas means we must grow the food and agriculture sector which accounts for nearly 45 percent of the state’s economy,” Gov. Sam Brownback said as he announced the plant. “The far-reaching impact of this development will be felt by farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses and communities throughout eastern Kansas. This is a step in the right direction to further diversify and grow our state’s economy.”

But forgive area residents if not all are as sold on the processing plant.

There is no shortage of information available on working conditions at poultry processing plants. The National Center for Farmworker Health reports that poultry plant workers are in “3-D” jobs that are dirty, dangerous and demanding. Workers are under intense pressure to process more than 100 chickens per hour and face a rate of injury that is 1.5 times higher than the average for all U.S. workers, according to a 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics report. Evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome was found in 42 percent of poultry plant workers in a 2012 study.

While the Tyson plant will employ 1,600 people, a majority could come from outside the community. Tyson and other poultry processing plants have had a difficult time getting local workers to fill plant openings. Often, immigrants from countries around the world are brought in to work in the plants.

It’s too early to tell what impact the Tyson plant will have on Northeast Kansas. The best strategy might be to keep an open mind on what the plant can do for the area while keeping an open eye on the working conditions employees face.

Comments

Richard Heckler

How much will each one of these dangerous jobs cost the taxpayers not only in direct corporate welfare from the Brownback admin.

The face of Tonganoxie is going to change a great deal.

Migrant workers will take over the town while conservatives are waging war on so called illegal workers. The conservative war on migrant workers is nothing but rhetoric aka bogus.

Tonganoxie residents would be money ahead to fight this. Low wage jobs cost too much money.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Charles L. Bloss, Jr.

I wish Dolph was back. I prefer one editorial per week.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Carol Bowen

Me, too. And, I miss reading his perspective. Now, all the writers agree.

3 months ago

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David Holroyd

What community are you talking about? It would be very easy to have 500 hundred people from Wyandotte County and another 200 from McClouth, Oskaloosa, Perry, Winchester,,,that's 700 and then there are the folks from Lawrence that went to American Eagle to work (thank Bob Schumm for that..remember the story in Pitch?) and then Basehor,,Leavenworth...

and even folks in Tongie will apply.

The Journal World is so narrow minded to think that Lawrence is the community.,NOT SO

Face it J/W...Lawrence is not in the business equation. I talked today to someone in Ottawa that will probably get into the chicken business and then there is the matter of feed. area farmers growing corn and have a market for it.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Brian Seveland

Tyson has a record as one of the worst polluters of waterways in the U.S. And living 3 miles south of the proposed site of the new facility, I have no interest in the pollution, smell, and additional traffic created by Tyson. And 1,600 low quality, low wage jobs isn't the type of economic development we want in our community.

The governor and Leavenworth county commissioners did a secret deal with Tyson and sprang it on the citizens of south county on Tuesday afternoon. Since then, local opposition to the deal (and by that, I mean primarily those of us who live in LVCO) has grown rapidly. Residents expressed their outrage at the Tongie city council meeting Tuesday night, but the acreage slated for development is not within city limits, so there's little the council can do.

But the real culprits, the LVCO county commissioners, meet today in Leavenworth. I imagine (and hope) their meeting will be full of angry residents -- maybe not villagers with pitchforks -- but the image is appropriate. We don't want Tyson in LVCO. I doubt many of you would want them in Douglas.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Bob Summers

Why doesn't people in government open a slaughterhouse for chickens?

They do everything else so well, why not make food for the poor to eat.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Brandon Devlin

First World problems. . .

3 months, 1 week ago

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David Holroyd

Lawrence is a pretty good polluter of old sofas drenched with beer and plastic cups all over the lawns ( welll hardly a lawn) on Tennessee and Kentucky and Ohio .Pick a block from 9th to 19th!

And then there is the matter of downtown with dog do and cigarette butts..

At least Tyson's has Nuggets that the Lawrence commissioners are missing!

3 months, 1 week ago

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Mark Kostner

You know few locals will be working at that meat plant. It will mostly be third world immigrants coming in to work just like in Southwest Kansas and other Midwest towns who host meat processing plants. Is Tonganoxie and its neighbors really prepared or really wants the expense of not only providing the infrastructure for this plant but to absorb and provide services for several thousand new residents? I am sure there are other communities who would welcome this opportunity rather than have it sprung on them. Southeast Kansas has a few large towns who lost their major industries like mining, railroads, and refineries and whose populations are several thousand off their peaks. Their schools could more easily absorb a major influx of students and their infrastructure could more easily handle a major manufacturing plant. I keep thinking Cherokee County would have made a better home for this facility off I-44 where the trucks could come in and out easily and area cities and towns can accommodate the workers. Or a place like Elwood, with a freeway link to I-29 and St. Joe could have handled the workers and their families better. Or putting the plant in KCK or Topeka would have made much more sense.

3 months ago

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