After being rebuffed by the good citizens of Tonganoxie, Tyson Foods announced plans on Monday to take its $300 million chicken production and processing complex out of Kansas altogether and hang its hat in western Tennessee.
State and local authorities were as keen on the Tonganoxie location as Tyson management, but the residents of Tonganoxie were decidedly not. They understood their community well. Tonganoxie has 5,000 people and change. If only half the new Tyson employees had moved to Tongonoxie, that would have added roughly 3,000 more people to the town.
That was problem enough. “They say this could double the size of the school district and they want to be operational in two years?” said Tonganoxie school board president Bryan Kemp at the time. “We can’t build anything in two years. Not with what we have. The city has to consider the district. Tyson has to consider the district. I even told Governor Brownback we’ve got to have help figuring out what to do.”
“Industry and state officials are a bit mystified that any community would turn away 1,600 jobs,” said CBS News, but Tonganoxie proved to be one such community. “We don’t want to be a chicken town,” Shannon Reischman, a 36-year-old mother of four, told CBS. The likely smell, added Reischman, was “the least of our concerns.”
Tonganoxie residents made enough of a fuss in September that Tyson puts its plans on hold. Still, Kansas officials did not give up their efforts to lure Tyson to some more receptive–translate, desperate–part of the state but without success.
Tennessee got the nod, and its governor, Bill Hallam, was crowing. “I want to thank Tyson Foods for choosing Humboldt as the location for its new operations and for creating more than 1,500 new jobs in Gibson County,” Haslam said. “The new facility will be Tyson’s fifth location in Tennessee, and it means a great deal that a company of this magnitude will continue to grow its footprint in our state.”
It was just that footprint that worried the savvy citizens of Tonganoxie, Kansas.