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People of 2 Kansas counties less vocal about Tyson

Tyson-Tonganoxie
Photo courtesy of Tyson Foods

Three distinctly different counties are possible locations for a new Tyson Foods poultry plant

November 3, 2017

Public opposition in Leavenworth County, Kansas, led Tyson Foods to explore other options for a location to build a $320 million poultry complex.

Since that time, three other Kansas counties have been identified as potential sites for the new complex – Sedgwick County, Montgomery County and Cloud County. However, less than two months after Leavenworth County residents voiced opposition to the plant and elected officials withdrew their support for the project, some residents of Sedgwick County have come forward to tell their county commission they don’t want or need the facility, or the jobs that come with it.

The county seat of Sedgwick County is Wichita, which is also the state’s largest city.

In an attempt to further gather public input regarding the plant, Sedgwick County is seeking emailed comments and has listed that address on its website.

Different counties, different demographics

Each county is a little different. Sedgwick County is mostly urban and growing. In fact, the suburbs of Maize, Andover and Goddard each have two high schools when just a few years ago, each had only one high school.

With a population less connected to agriculture, it makes sense that there would be some opposition.

In the more rural Montgomery County, which has over 33,000 residents, a large portion of its population live in Coffeyville and Independence. The two towns both have a population of over 9,000.  

If the plant would be located in Montgomery County – Coffeyville has been identified as the more exact location – it would likely draw employees from the county, as well as from neighboring Elk, Chautauqua, Labette and Wilson counties, and from Oklahoma. (Since Coffeyville is just north of the Oklahoma border, there is actually also a South Coffeyville, Oklahoma.)

Cloud County, in north-central Kansas, is even more rural. The entire county has about the same population as the City of Independence alone. Its county seat, Concordia, has a population of about 5,200. Most neighboring counties have populations that are either comparable or smaller.

What do Cloud, Montgomery county residents think?

While news outlets have been reporting opposition to a possible poultry plant in Sedgwick County, things are a little quieter regarding Montgomery and Cloud counties.

Gleanings of the online versions of the Independence Daily Reporter and the Concordia Blade-Empire (which has a paywall I didn't attempt to get past) showed little information concerning public opinion, and the Coffeyville Journal does not offer an online edition. But each of the three papers has a Facebook page.

The Coffeyville Journal announced the that Montgomery County was a finalist for the Tyson complex on October 18 on its Facebook page. Nearly all comments were positive, and all 37 reactions were either “like,” “wow” or “love.”

The one exception was a person who referenced Tyson's discharge at its facility in Monett, Missouri, that resulted in a settlement. He was apparently concerned about the future quality of the Verdigris River which runs through the east of the city and feared a similar incident could occur. But even that person acknowledged that the plant would be “wonderful for a town’s economy.”

The comments on the Independence Daily Reporter Facebook announcement in general were less flattering, but the “like” reactions far outnumbered the “angry” reactions.

It is plausible that some comments were deleted from both newspapers’ Facebook pages, but with both positive and negative input, it appears an attempt at balance was made.

Public input in Cloud County is a little more ambiguous. Seven people on the Blade-Empire Facebook page “liked” the announcement, and the only comment made was a question asking who were the local economic department agency’s partners in the project.

Disclaimer

I live in Kansas, but not in Leavenworth, Sedgwick, Montgomery or Cloud County. I would love for Kansas to land the Tyson complex, however don’t favor one location over the other. I have my opinions based on economic factors and current agricultural production in those counties that I didn’t touch on in this blog, regarding which county makes the most sense and which one makes the least, but I only have some of the details, so those opinions aren’t particularly strong.

I do, however, hope this blog helped readers learn a little more about these communities that have previously been largely off the radar of the poultry industry.

There is a chance that none of these places will be chosen, as Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman told me the company is evaluating options in Kansas and other states that have expressed support.

But until a choice is made, we are left to wonder, will it be the squeaky wheel or a quiet one that gets the grease?

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