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Tyson Foods on Tuesday canceled a plan to build a high-tech chicken processing facility in northeastern Kansas.

The Springdale-based company said it put a hold on planning and is now considering other locations after county commissioners voted to retract a $500 million revenue bond offer.

"After Monday's reversal of support by the Leavenworth County commissioners, we will put our plans in your community on hold," said Doug Ramsey, Tyson group president of poultry, in an letter released Tuesday afternoon. "We still have interest in Leavenworth County, but will prioritize the other locations in Kansas and other states that have expressed support."

The industrial bonds would have made the proposed complex eligible for an 80 percent property tax abatement.

Two weeks ago Tyson Foods said it would invest $320 million to build a combined poultry plant, hatchery and feed mill near the town of Tonganoxie that would create 1,600 jobs and have an annual economic impact of about $150 million in Leavenworth County, which has a population of about 80,000.

"After considering multiple locations in Kansas and in other states, the company chose Leavenworth County because of the availability of grain and labor, as well as customer access," Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman said in a statement Monday.

The proposed complex would have been the first Tyson Foods facility to be built from the ground up in 20 years, and the first Tyson plant dedicated to chicken processing in Kansas.

At an event to announce plans to build the plant, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said he strongly favored Tyson's proposal and welcomed the growth of the state's poultry industry -- ranked 34th in the U.S. for egg and broiler sales.

On Friday, a public forum at a Tonganoxie park hosted by three Kansas legislators drew a crowd of more than 2,000. Of those who spoke at the event, none supported Tyson's plans.

Residents and community leaders said they were concerned about the economic and environmental repercussions of a nearby chicken plant, and the hundreds of growers needed to supply it.

Many said they worried about the potential side effects: air and water pollution, an influx of migrant workers seeking labor-intensive jobs, declining property values, and county infrastructure changes to accommodate the plant.

By the forum's close, four Kansas legislators said they opposed the project.

"My constituents are frustrated with the lack of communication on this," said Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City. "I'm not giving [Tyson] the benefit of the doubt."

Holland, along with other state legislators, said they did not know about Tyson's plans until the day of the announcement on Sept. 5.

In Tuesday's letter, Tyson's Ramsey said state and local leaders invited Tyson to Kansas and encouraged the company to consider Leavenworth County.

"In a show of support, the county commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to use industrial revenue bonds for the project," Ramsey said in a statement. "We saw this shared investment ... as a win for the company and the people of Leavenworth County."

Officials in other parts of Kansas and the United States have expressed interest in being a home for a new plant.

Terry Hailey, mayor of Union City, Tenn., for the past 38 years, remembered when Tyson first called in the 1990s.

"We heard some of the same concerns," Hailey said. "We were told the ground would be white with feathers. None of that has happened."

Last month Tyson Foods invested $84 million into its poultry plant in Union City, which the company says will create more than 300 factory jobs. More than 1,000 people work at the poultry plant that makes partially fried chicken products.

Hailey said Tyson Foods has been a great addition to the town of about 10,000, and if things didn't work out in Kansas, they were welcome to build a second plant in Union City.

"If you were to look for a feather here, you couldn't find one," he said.

The proposed Kansas site, 5 miles south of Tonganoxie, would have processed about 1.25 million birds per week. It had a start date of mid-2019.

"This is a good project that we are deeply passionate about," Ramsey said in the letter. "We also believe it will be a significant boost -- and not just economically -- for the right community."

Business on 09/20/2017

Print Headline: Tyson cancels plans for Kansas complex resisted by residents

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