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Governor set to make major economic development announcement in Tonganoxie; speculation rampant about meat processing plant
Look for a major announcement from Gov. Sam Brownback today that could lead to a meatpacking plant being located about 10 miles from downtown Lawrence.
The governor has scheduled a press conference at 12:30 p.m. today in Tonganoxie to make a major economic development announcement. The press conference comes on the heels of the Leavenworth County Commission on Thursday giving preliminary approval of $500 million in industrial revenue bonds for an unnamed “plant” project that would be located between Tonganoxie and the Tongonaxie/Eudora interchange on the Kansas Turnpike.
According to an article in the Leavenworth Times, the project would be located on about 320 acres, with the bulk of the land near 222nd Street and Hemphill Road and another site at U.S. 24/40 and Honey Creek Road. The southern edge of the project would be about one mile north of Tonganoxie/Eudora interchange.
During the approval process in Leavenworth County, the name of the company was not revealed. However, the Times reports commissioners were told that the “company that would operate the plant is the largest of its kind for its industry.”
In Tonganoxie, speculation is rampant that Tyson Foods is the company that will build and operate the plant.
There are certainly other signs that a meat processing facility could be in the works. In addition to the governor, representatives from the Kansas Department of Agriculture will be on hand at today’s announcement.
Although the project will be in Leavenworth County, it certainly could have an impact on Lawrence and Douglas County. The site is basically 10 miles north and east of downtown Lawrence. Presumably, being next to the Kansas Turnpike is important for the project, so additional truck traffic on that road would be expected. It is possible the South Lawrence Trafficway and U.S. Highway 59 also could be important truck routes for the facility.
There has been no word of how many jobs the project may add to the region, but meatpacking facilities often are labor-intensive, and in other communities, they have often relied on immigrant labor to a large degree. The project also is expected to have a large fiscal impact for Leavenworth County. The Times reports the project is seeking an 80 percent tax abatement for 10 years. However, even with an abatement, the project is expected to add about $1.3 million a year to Leavenworth County tax coffers, according to the article. Meat packing facilities also can come with environmental issues, including disposal of waste, odor concerns and other such issues.
The project, whatever it is, will require additional approvals before it can move forward. On Thursday, Leavenworth County issued what is called an "intent to issue" industrial revenue bonds, which would allow for the tax abatement. However, the county commission will have to hold a public hearing and take another vote before the bonds can actually be issued.
Again, much of this is still speculation. There has been no confirmation that Tyson or a meatpacking facility is the actual project. What does seem clear, though, is that a major project announcement will happen later today.
We’ll have reporters on the scene and will report back more when we have additional details.
UPDATE: Multiple sources in Tonganoxie tell me that there is indeed a large, well-adorned Tyson Foods trucks in downtown Tonganoxie.