Business

Cumberland nixes deal for chicken plant

Posted September 22, 2014 11:10 a.m. EDT
Updated September 22, 2014 6:15 p.m. EDT

— Cumberland County officials said Monday that they have abandoned plans to lure a chicken processing plant to the county.

Sanderson Farms has been looking at building a $113 million plant in the Cedar Creek Business Center, a county-owned 480-acre industrial park east of Interstate 95.

Commissioner Marshall Faircloth said that, a week after the Board of Commissioners couldn't muster enough votes to pass an incentives package for the plant, officials have decided to drop their recruitment of Sanderson Farms altogether.

Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Jeanette Council polled commissioners over the weekend about selling land in the industrial park to Sanderson without the incentives package, but the majority of commissioners said they wouldn't vote to sell the land to the company, according to Faircloth.

"It varied among commissioners from environmental issues to the type of industry that it is to the amount that they pay and to the resistance in the community," he said as to the board's decision.

Fayetteville could still work out a deal for the plant, which could bring 1,000 jobs to the area, Faircloth said. Sanderson also could purchase land in Cumberland County not associated with the industrial park and open a plant without county incentives, he said.

"Cumberland County commissioners cannot stop the company from coming into the county and locating on properly zoned land," he said. "But as far as Cumberland county's involvement with the Cedar Creek Business Park and incentives to locate here, we are out of the issue."

Fayetteville City Councilwoman Kathy Jensen said city officials are examining their options with regard to the plant.

"We do need the jobs here in Fayetteville," Jensen said. "But we do want to make sure that we do our due diligence and make sure all questions are answered, especially when it comes to the environment."

Residents who live near the Cedar Creek Business Center have been vocal against building the plant, citing concerns about the smell, noise, pollution and potential water contamination that might be associated with it.

In addition to the jobs at the plant, the company would contract with about 80 chicken farms in a five-county area to supply the plant.

Sanderson executives said they haven't gotten any official word from Cumberland County that the deal is dead. Despite the mounting opposition, the company said it wants to be a good neighbor if it decides to build near Fayetteville.

"That's the goal of all people – to be where they're wanted," spokesman Bob Billingsley said. "This was a site that was made available to us in the beginning to look at it, and it would be one that would work for the community. So, we're going to continue to work on that and see where it takes us."

Sanderson has options on several other tracts of land in Cumberland County and isn't ready to throw in the towel on the deal yet, Billingsley said. A city in Virginia also is courting the company to locate the plant there.