WRAL Investigates

Questions raised about recruitment of proposed Nash chicken plant

Posted May 18, 2011
Updated May 19, 2011

WRAL Investigates

— It’s a project that's ruffling feathers from Raleigh to Wilson, and now, opponents are questioning the tactics used to lure a chicken processing plant to Nash County.

The Sanderson Farms processing plant would create about 1,100 jobs in a three-county region that has some of the highest unemployment rates in the state. Nash County's rate is at 11.4 percent, Wilson County's is at 11.8 percent, and Edgecombe County has the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the state, at 14.5 percent.

The plant, chicken houses and waste spray fields would all sit in Nash County near the Wilson County line. The project quickly sparked lawsuits over environmental issues and letters of concern from as far away as Raleigh's City Council.

WRAL Investigates has obtained a string of emails and part of a deposition in one of those suits that add fuel to the heated debate. The documents show county officials struck a verbal deal with Sanderson Farms to sidestep a state grant process to get the project rolling.

Sanderson Farms would front the money for a water project to Appian Consulting, which is owned by Bobby Joyner, a longtime friend of Nash County Commissioner Robbie Davis. Once Nash County got state economic development grants, it would repay Appian, which would then reimburse Sanderson Farms.

Some state grants won't pay for work already underway, however, which threw a wrench into the plans.

"Although it may not be reimbursable by grants later on if we go ahead and pay for it now, it's best for the invoices to be held until after the grant awards," Nash County Planning Director Patsy McGhee wrote in an email.

When asked about the deal in his deposition, Davis said he "wouldn't be fond of an arrangement like that."

Sanderson Farms opposition signs Questions raised about recruitment of proposed Nash chicken plant

In an interview with WRAL Investigates, he said, "It's not unusual for us to do preliminary engineering work and not pay invoices until a particular grant is approved."

The water project never materialized, and when the opposition to the processing plant grew, Sanderson Farms delayed construction.

"We desperately need jobs. We need to get our people to work. We need to get all of our people to work,” Davis said. "The spray fields will be a plus for Wilson County and the whole Neuse River (watershed) area."

Nash County Board of Commissioners Chairman Billy Morgan said he wants the Sanderson Farms project to fly the coop. He said the emails obtained by WRAL Investigates fit the pattern for the project.

"I think it's being pushed too much and not the people being considered," Morgan said.

Davis and other county leaders called the release of the documents dirty.

"I wish they would review the facts and stop creating a sideshow, as I would call them, for lack of a better name," Davis said of plant opponents.

The only fact that concerns Morgan and other residents is they don't want a chicken plant in their backyard.

"People should be concerned about it, because it's what they're getting," Morgan said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • notjustmom May 20, 2011

    To all those who say we need the jobs...check out the quote from Firestone execs in Wilson saying that they have 63 job openings that they can't fill because there aren't enough applicants able to pass a drug test. Same thing happened when Sam's club opened in Rocky Mount. It's not the lack of opportunity...it's the lack of a qualified and motivated work force that keeps unemployment rates high.

  • whatusay May 19, 2011

    If Edgecomb county has the highest unemployment in the state, why isn't Sanderson Farms locating on the Tar river? Why upset 100,000 citizens in surrounding counties with their "illegal employment facility", when they can build it east of Rocky Mount on the Tar river? Why is it critical they they locate on the Wilson County border? Is because out water supply is adequate for their pollution run-off's? Go east and let those who need the jobs enjoy their own water supply when Sanderson Farms start overflowing every month because the fine will be cheaper than processing the waste.

  • Joe Friday May 19, 2011

    There are so many negative issues related to Sanderson Farms’ proposed location that any half-brain imbicile would have to be blind to be in favor of it. For those good citizens of Nash County that favor this proposal, ignorance is bliss. For those that stand to profit, shame on you for hiding behind the false banner of providing needed jobs for the “less fortunate” unemployed in Nash County.

  • Joe Friday May 19, 2011

    It goes without saying; unemployed Nash County citizens need jobs. Do not be so gullible to think that these 1,100 jobs that Sanderson Farms will be providing will go to those in our area. Do some research. These jobs require continuous repetitive work and have one of the highest turnover and injury rates in the nation. Based on past statistics, most of these jobs will be filled with non-local workers. Also, based on past statistics, areas where poultry plant locate, the general economy and standard of living in those areas go down. Sanderson Farms is not the answer to unemployment in Nash County. Our citizens deserve better. Let’s not allow industries into our area that possibly will deter higher paying jobs, with better working conditions, and jobs that will be desirable and filled by local workers.

  • the river rat May 19, 2011

    "Maybe they can build an electronics factory there. So everyone will have nice clean pie jobs." superman

    Or maybe they could build some type of industry that would not threaten the drinking water supply of over 100,000 people.

    Just a thought.

  • Joe Friday May 19, 2011

    It is sad that Robbie Davis thinks the voiced concerns of his constituents are nothing but a sideshow. The concerns from the opposition have been presented to the Nash County Commissioners in an intelligent, informed, and respectful manner. Referring to these concerns as a sideshow is just another example of Mr. Davis’s cavalier attitude toward anyone who opposes his views. He needs to open his eyes and not be so ready to base his judgment on biased information feed to him by Sanderson Farms and others who stand to profit if Sanderson Farms locates in Nash County.

  • superman May 19, 2011

    Maybe they can build an electronics factory there. So everyone will have nice clean pie jobs. Any job is better than no job. I guess that old saying is wrong, "beggers cant be chosy". Just sit back and continue to draw unemployment and live off the taxpayers.

  • musthavecoffee May 19, 2011


  • bigal02282 May 19, 2011

    Here is what you will get for your chicken plant: Loads of stinky mess getting sprayed on fields everyehere. Just like they do it here. Trucks hauling in and out stinking crates of chickens stuffed into them with feathers flying off onto the sides of roads and yards everywhere along the routes. NO one from your area getting hired to do any work because the company will have ads in every South American paper there is offering work for those willing to make the trip to America. Social Services spending all of their money helping the low-wage employees at the plant survive. Emergency services constantly on route to one wreck or another, domestic disputes, drug deals gone bad, and a lot worse. Do yourselves a favor. Run the company off and don't worry about losing any jobs, they won't provide any for locals. We have 3 poultry plants here and they have ruined our little town. No one from around here has a job at any of em. All from down south.

  • Rebelyell55 May 19, 2011

    Build it. Monitor it. Make sure the company knows it being watch for use of illegals. If a company knows the citizens will be watching it closely, they will do a better job of staying within the laws of our state.