By Stan Maddux
CORYDON, Ind. – A rural area in southern Indiana is reeling from a decision by Tyson Foods to close a chicken processing plant that’s been an anchor in the community for generations.
The closure of the plant in downtown Corydon on or about March 1 next year means 368 employees will lose their jobs and close to 50 contracted poultry suppliers in the area will have to look for new customers.
Harrison County Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Long said many people are trying to come to terms with the decision they didn’t see coming when it was announced by the company on August 7.
“This came as a huge surprise,” she said.
Tyson Foods also announced it was shutting down three other chicken processing facilities in North Little Rock, Ark.; Dexter, Mo., and Noel, Mo. According to company officials, the decision is aimed at reducing operating expenses and improving efficiency.
“The difficult decision demonstrates our commitment to bold action and operational excellence as we drive performance, including lower costs and improving capacity utilization, and build on our strategy of making Tyson Foods stronger in the long-term,” said Donnie King, president and CEO of Tyson Foods.
In its third quarter fiscal year earnings report, Tyson reported a 3 percent decline in sales from the previous year along with a $350 million drop in profits from 2022.
Long said the financial impact of the plant closure on such thing as lost wages and property taxes locally will be significant in a county with about 39,000 residents.
Tyson Foods is the third largest employer in Harrison County.
“As you can image, their direct economic impact in this community is millions of dollars. The indirect impact would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” she said.
Other impacts will include the town of Corydon losing a major water and sewer customer in a community of slightly more than 3,000 residents. “There will be a ripple effect,” Long said.
Whether existing utility customers will see a rate increase to make up for the lost revenue is unknown, as is the future of the processing facility.
Tyson Foods is encouraging workers impacted by the plant closures to apply for open positions elsewhere with the company.
Long said the focus of her group now is helping Tyson Foods successfully transition out of the community and assist employees choosing not to seek jobs elsewhere with the food giant find other employment.
Specifically, she said the local chamber of commerce will partner with organizations such as the Indiana Department of Workforce Development to evaluate the skills of the workers and determine any retraining they might need to quality for other jobs locally.
There are state and federal funds available to pay for those upcoming job relocation efforts.
If there is a bright spot, Long said there are a number of manufacturers in the area with open positions that could absorb some of the job losses from the plant closure.
Tyson Foods is adjusting to a decline in demand for some products after pulling in major profits when meat prices skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to company officials, the four facilities to be shut down represent about 10 percent of Tyson Foods chicken slaughter capacity.
The four plants combined also employ about 3,000 people with about half of the workforce at the facility in Noel.
Earlier this year, Tyson closed two other chicken plants in Arkansas and Virginia and also let go some of its corporate staff.
“Tyson has just always been such a positive corporate partner here in the community. It’s a substantial loss,” Long said.