When Tyson Foods announced last week that it would build its new poultry complex in Humboldt, Tennessee, it was certainly disappointing to many people in Kansas that hoped the company would choose to expand into the Sunflower State.

But at the same time, Kansans should be encouraged. After all, Tyson Foods spokesman Worth Sparkman told the Kansas City Star: “We may eventually need to build a plant to meet demand. We’re still interested in Kansas.”

Tyson Foods chose the Tennessee community after the company learned that support from local leaders and the community as a whole was lacking in Tonganoxie, Kansas, the company’s original choice for the complex that was to include a poultry plant, feed mill and hatchery.

Once Tyson decided to explore options other than Tonganoxie, other communities from Kansas and beyond began reaching out to Tyson with proposals.

Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) Director of Communications Heather Landsdowne said as soon as word spread that Tonganoxie residents didn’t want the Tyson broiler complex, between 35 and 40 other communities inquired. Of those 16 presented KDA with proposals, and KDA narrowed that list of proposals to three finalists – Cloud County, Montgomery County and Sedgwick County. While some trepidation was shown by Sedgwick County residents, there was very little negative said in Cloud and Montgomery counties.

Tom Hayes, Tyson Foods CEO, said in a recent conference call that Tyson wanted to build the poultry complex where it knew it would be welcome. The company evidently has that in Humboldt, Tennessee, but it seems evident that other communities in Kansas would also be welcoming.

Ready for the next round

Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Jackie McClaskey told the Star that the KDA is aware that Tyson is considering other locations and has ambitions of building more than one new complex. She is optimistic Kansas will be considered in the future. “We anticipate positive news in 2018 as we continue to work with multiple Kansas communities and Tyson,” she said.

Landsdowne, in an October interview with WATT Global Media, indicated that even if Tyson doesn’t choose to build in Kansas, other companies – whether they are broiler companies or other agribusiness ventures -- looking to expand will be apt to give Kansas a long, hard look.

She said not only does KDA know there were 16 Kansas communities that presented a proposal for a Tyson Foods broiler complex, but there were the others that at least interested enough to inquire. Companies looking to expand will know that, too, Landsdowne said.

“We’ve got so many communities that have said, ‘agriculture growth is something we’re interested in,’ and now we have opportunities to explore other projects and do what we can to help further those interests from all those communities,” she said.