Poultry processor investing $165 million, 1,000 jobs coming to Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) -- A new poultry expansion coming to northeast Arkansas will create thousands of job opportunities in a rural part of the state.

To the tune of $165 million Peco Foods, a poultry company based in Tuscaloosa, Ala., is set to build a processing plant and hatchery outside of Pocahontas city limits, and a feed mill in Corning.

The company already has a processing plant in Batesville, but the eighth-largest poultry producer in the nation is ready to plant additional roots in Arkansas with Monday's announcement of 1,000 jobs on the way.

Construction will begin in two phases with the mill site beginning in April and construction of the hatchery and processing plant to begin in July.

"When we can talk about Corning and we can talk about Pocahontas, we can talk about Randolph County and Clay County and all those other areas, those are hard working people," said Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe to begin Monday's press conference.

The Delta Regional Authority offered up a $231,000 investment to have Peco Foods expand its business in Arkansas.

"Economic development is not a one-size fits all," said Chris Masingill, co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority.

"This is about what works for a region. This is a company that's making some investments, doing some expansions, and this is a job creating opportunity that's going to help a lot of our people," he added.

With its only current Arkansas operations in Batesville, Peco saw an advantage in this rural part of Arkansas. Pay will range from nearly $11/hour at the plant to $13/hour at the mill.

"They wanted to expand, and by Peco saying we want to come here means that we've got the right work force for this industry, we know a little bit about this industry in this state," Masingill continued.

Peco's president and CEO, Mark Hickman, said adding 1,000 jobs is just the tip of its expansion in an area of Arkansas known for its farming.

"We will need approximately 339,000 bushels of corn and 2,400 tons of soy mill on a weekly basis. It's very important to us that we are helping farmers increase their income and better provide for their families," Hickman said.

Peco isn't the only one making an investment here, the State of Arkansas pitched in $4.5 million in community development funds. Additionally, local governments added $700,000.

Peco cited its largest clients as Wal-Mart and Buffalo Wild Wings.