HUMBOLDT, Tenn. – Tyson Foods Inc. plans to build a new chicken production complex in Tennessee, a $300 million project that is expected to create more than 1,500 jobs when the facility begins operations in late 2019, the company said Monday.

The new plant in Humboldt, about 85 miles northeast of Memphis, will produce pre-packaged trays of fresh chicken for retail grocery stores nationwide, the Springdale, Arkansas-based company said in a statement before a news conference. The plant will help it meet strong consumer demand for its chicken.

The announcement marks the second major economic development project Tyson has begun this year in Tennessee. In August, the company announced an $84 million expansion of operations in Union City. That project is expected to create about 300 jobs.

Tyson currently operates four facilities in the state, employing about 5,000 people. The company says it paid Tennessee farmers more than $61 million in the 2016 fiscal year.

Officials including Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam lauded Tyson for choosing the West Tennessee city.

“This is an historic day for Humboldt, Gibson County and West Tennessee,” Humboldt mayor Marvin Sikes said. “The significant job creation and capital investment that will result from this project will have a positive impact on our community that will last for many years.”

The company’s portfolio of products includes Tyson chicken, Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm and Ballpark.

Worth Sparkman, Tyson spokesperson, told KSN, “Our plans for a chicken complex in Kansas remain on hold while we move forward in Tennessee. We still have interest in Kansas and will continue to consider potential sites in the state for additional expansion of our poultry business.”

Meanwhile, Heather Lansdowne, Communications Director with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, expanded on that.

“From the beginning of this project, when we began working with Tyson, they had indicated that the protein industry is large enough that they would be doing multiple facilities in multiple states, and so the announcement today, that they’re building a new plant in Tennessee, is of no surprise to us. They’ve indicated to us that they’re continuing to work on moving forward in Kansas and looking at three communities throughout Kansas as a possibility for future growth here in our state.”

Sedgwick County Commissioner David Dennis said he didn’t know that Tyson was looking into other locations until the announcement was made this morning.

“What I found out, evidently, is that they are looking at three different locations for plants, with three phases,” said Dennis.  “The one that was announced this morning is really phase one, sounded like Sedgwick County is possibly phase two and some other location is phase three,” Dennis added.

As for when Kansas could see a plant possibly come here, Dennis says the timeline isn’t concrete.

“I heard it might be summer time before we make some decisions and just within the last hour I heard it may be two years before we even get to the point where we can make decisions,” said Dennis.

Dennis says he’s hopeful they get answers sooner, rather than later.

“I’d rather make a decision sooner than later, because the public wants an answer, and the longer we push this off, the more people are going to feel that we are not being transparent,” said Dennis.

Potentials sites include Sedgwick, Cloud and Montgomery counties. Tyson had previously announced a $320 million chicken plant outside Tonganoxie in northeastern Kansas in September, but local officials withdrew their support amid public opposition.

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