State and local government entities are contributing millions to a major investment in northeast Arkansas expected to generate more than 1,000 jobs. Plans for a $165 million industrial poultry operation with new facilities in Randolph and Clay counties were detailed Monday in front of a room full of onlookers. Governor Mike Beebe was joined by the CEO of Peco Foods, Mark Hickman.
The Alabama based company already has operations in Batesville and the neighboring town of Newark but this latest addition to the country’s eighth largest poultry producer will account for one-sixth of their regional workforce. Hickman said the production process will be separated and all major facilities will be completed in 22 months.
“Construction will begin in two phases. We’ll break ground on the feed mill at the Corning site next month, with ground breaking occurring at the Pocahontas site for the processing and hatchery in July," said Hickman.
Initial state and county incentives for Peco Foods are in excess of $5 million. The director of the Arkansas Economic Development Council Grant Tennille said the state uses an industry formula, IMPLAN, to determine whether a public investment will lead to long-term benefits.
“It enables you to plug in the kinds of jobs, the wage, and then it spits you back out a whole bunch of data about not only what those jobs should do for your economy but what all of the additional, add-on employment would do, the ripple effect. One of the great things about food processing is that the ripple effect is very high,” said Tennille.
Tenille spoke further on how jobs at Peco Foods is projected to lead to the creation of industry-related employment in the region.
"There are going to be farmers who begin to grow chickens up there that never have before, the feed requirements to keep all of these chickens fed is high. So, you’re going to have a ripple out into the community. The hauling of both the grain in and the chickens out is going to employ a bunch of new truck drivers. These kinds of jobs tend to create a large ripple effect and that’s really what we’re looking for,” said Tennille.
In addition to spill-over, industry related job growth Tennille and Hickman are in agreement the impact of benefited positions and average wages between over $10 and hour and $13 an hour between the two sites will boost the local economy.