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Local leaders, Tyson execs and managers cut ribbon at new feed mill near Fulton

Ribbon was cut this morning at the official opening of the new Tyson Foods $65 million feed mill, located on Highway 195 between Fulton and Washington. Several Tyson executives, managers, Hempstead County and Hope leaders were present.

“It’s a great day,” said Hempstead Economic Development Corporation president Steve Harris during the event, “When the largest employer in your area invests in your community.”

About 50 people gathered for a news conference just a few yards southeast of the 198 feet-tall structure, the building of which took 250 personnel. Hope and Hempstead County government leaders present included Hope Mayor Don Still, with City Director Mark Ross and County Judge Jerry Crane, with Justice of the Peace Steve Atchley.  From the Hope Hempstead County Economic Development Corporation, Executive Director Steve Harris and members Atchley, Ross, Crane, Ladell Douglas, Steve Lance and Akili Israel-Moses were in attendance.

Prior to the ribbon being cut, breakfast foods and coffee were served.  Then Tyson managers and local government representatives spoke to the seated assemblage under a rotunda.

Randy King, the manager of the Tyson complex in Hope, cited figures concerning the mill’s production and use of personnel. He said the mill would put out about 13,000 tons of finished feed in a week. It will be able to load 115 rail cars in 11 hours. “It’s a very unique feed mill. It’s got some of the biggest equipment around. We’re producing more feed than anybody in Tyson. We’re pretty proud of that,” he said, adding that it will make use of 61 drivers, managers and mill workers.

Later in the press conference, King responded to a question from City Director Ross asking about what would be done with the Hope and Nashville mills, which are being replaced by the new two-silo complex and will not continue to be used. “We’re just going to keep on building. We’re looking by 2024 to be [processing] 1.3 million birds by September of that year.” The current production is 1 million birds. King explained that a new hatchery would be built by then.

Executive Director of Hope and Hempstead County Economic Development Corporation Steve Harris said, “I’m so proud that Tyson continues to make investments and expansion in our local community. Today, they reached new heights in their commitment to our local economy.”

Steve Harris, Executive Director of the Hope and Hempstead County Economic Development Corporation.

Harris thanked Tyson “for their leadership throughout the pandemic and their concern for the workers’ well-being.”

He cited the contributions of Arkansas representative Danny Watson (R-Hempstead and Nevada County) and Hempstead County Quorum Court Finance Chair Ed Darling of help with the financing and logistics. “This was a complicated project with the state highway not being up to code,” Harris said, referring to the work that had to be done to increase the amount of weight Highway 195 near the mill could support. In the end,

He said the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Arkansas Department of Transportation, Kaimichi Railroad, Hope and Hempstead County “all played a part in helping Tyson reach their business plan.”

County Judge Jerry Crane and Hope Mayor Don Still both spoke in thanks for Tyson’s investment with Still quipping “We have more room, you want to build something else.” Crane noted the sign above the breakfast table said, “’Our work feeds the nation,’ That means a lot to our community,” he said. In closing, he said, “I know we’re going to see a lot of improvements, and we’re going to see this county grow.”

Nathan McKay, Tyson’s Vice President of Operations, said the finishing of the mill was especially gratifying since he had worked at the Hope Tyson complex for four years himself, and he and his family bought a house in Hope during that time. “I stepped into this role about four months ago, and I took over from that gentleman standing right over there, Eddie Chancellor. Eddie started this project. I get to finish it,” he said.

Nathan McKay, Vice President of Operations at Tyson.

After the press conference, McKay said it had not yet been determined what would be done with the obsolete mills in Hope and Nashville: “So for the next year, those plants are just going to sit idle. We’re going to maintain them. And then that year, we’ll make a decision as to the disposition of those locations.”

McKay also said the business unit at Tyson is currently “looking at different options” to incorporate green technology into the mill.

Terry Crabtree, manager of the new mill, gave a report on the status of the mill now. “We’re just now done with the heavy lifting of getting it started,” he said. “We’re still not 100 percent done with construction yet. We’re still utilizing the stairs. There’s 37 flights.” He said the mill was two weeks from getting its elevator operational. Looking forward to 2024, Crabtree said, “When we get the hatchery done, Fulton will be one of the largest mills in the country” and the economic benefits “you’ll see stretch out everywhere. Expanded [chicken grower] houses, business—you’re going to see a lot of growth.”

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