Wayne Farms is preparing for a $16.9 million expansion and upgrade of the Wayne Farms Laurel Fresh Production Facility in Laurel, Mississippi, significantly increasing the plant’s capacity and adding approximately 200 jobs to the payroll. 

The additional jobs required to staff the expanded operation will include 190 hourly positions and 11 salaried positions, and company officials are already accepting applications. All positions offer full benefits and competitive wages, with starting pay at $11.60 per hour for hourly employees, increasing to more than $13 per hour after one year of employment, according to a press release from the company. 

“We’re ready to get this project underway,” said Craig Ballantine, manager of the Laurel complex. “Demand for the products we produce is increasing, and this expansion will give us the capacity we’re going to need to meet it. We’re modernizing as we expand, so our people will be working with the latest processing machinery and technology—very exciting for them and our company.”

When construction is completed, the expanded Laurel facility will employ approximately 550 people.

Pre-bid meetings with contractors are scheduled for mid-January, with construction expected to begin in mid-February and completion slated for May 2020.

The Laurel expansion includes the addition of a leading-edge processing line and equipment, including automated cutting, deboning, portioning, packaging and upgraded X-Ray technology, all tied to the company’s new LADYBIRD premium chicken line of products, which was introduced in August 2019.

Wayne Farms previously expanded operations in Laurel in 2013, with a $3 million investment. The expansion involved the addition of a new processing line and renovation to the existing facility.

The company also announced in 2016 that it would discontinue the deboning lines at the Laurel facility because of a shift in customer product requirements.

Wayne Farms, according to the WATTAgNet Top Poultry Companies Database, is the seventh largest broiler company in the United States, having processed 47.8 million pounds of ready-to-cook chicken in 2018.