December 17, 2014 EditionAlso in this issue...
Intermodal reports on Peco research
Members of the Intermodal Authority heard from a group who visited two communities in Mississippi where Peco Foods have poultry operations in their board meeting on Dec. 11. Chairman Wayne Gearhart said he thought the trip to Canton and Bay Springs was very informative.
"We got a lot of answers to our questions," Gearhart said. "Overall, this trip put a lot of our concerns and fears on the back burner."
The trip was set up to help the Intermodal Authority prepare for the impact of the new poultry processing plant being built in Pocahontas by giving them a first-hand look at how communities deal with a large poultry operation. Gearhart gave everyone who made the two-day trip an opportunity to explain what they had learned.
"It was an interesting trip," said Scott Trammel "The biggest thing was the economic impact on agriculture. There were a lot of positives from the long-term growers. These counties have been in the chicken industry since the 1960s so there is no comparison to the greenfield site we are seeing here in Randolph County."
A greenfield site is one that is being built from scratch on land that has not been previously used for such purposes.
"It is unlike anything, at least for Peco, that has ever been done," Trammel said.
Trammel said there is no real model out there for all the growth the area will see because of the chicken plant.
Denisa Pennington, AEDC director of community development, said the AEDC is doing research to try to find greenfield sites maybe not in Arkansas, but in the country, in order to have a model that would compare to what is going on in Northeast Arkansas.
Trammel said he was impressed with the towns they visited, which seemed vibrant, and in the case of Canton, Peco has competition for jobs from the big Nissan plant there which employs over 5,000 people.
The Bay Springs area's county population was comparable to Randolph County with about 17,000 and an adjoining county has four or five processing plants, he said.
"Housing wasn't really addressed and Peco was not worried about the labor force," Trammel said. The processing plant employed around 700 and the plant where they prepare the chicken to sell directly was around 300.
The plants are also located on main four-lane highways with one next to a Walmart, Gearhart added. The group confirmed that odor was not an issue.
Some of the other points made were: