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Restart planned for shut PB plant

100 to be hired for poultry work

By Glen Chase

This article was published December 19, 2013 at 3:34 a.m.

A Pine Bluff poultry processing plant that shut down abruptly in June is being reopened by Summit Poultry Inc., which has already begun hiring workers to fill 100 positions.

Summit took possession of the former Horizon Foods LP facility at 2201 W. Second Ave. earlier this month. Terms of the deal weren’t available Wednesday.

Harry Schmid, the plant’s general manager, said in a release that the plant expects to begin processing hens that have grown too old to lay eggs by mid-January, mostly for export markets. Telephone messages left at Schmid’s office weren’t returned Wednesday.

Summit Poultry filed as a for-profit corporation with the Arkansas secretary of state’s office July 29. Schmid described the company as owned by a group of California investors, including many who are involved in meat production and distribution, the Pine Bluff Commercial reported Wednesday.

The company plans to hire more employees in January as it increases production, according to the release. It expects to receive its first birds for processing, from 20,000 to 30,000, as early as the first week of January.

Many of those being hired worked at the plant when it was managed by Horizon Foods.

Lou Ann Nisbett, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, said Wednesday that the company is preparing the facility for chicken processing, including readying it for a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection.

Nisbett was pleased that many of the jobs are going to people who once worked at the plant.

“When they did work at Horizon, they had zero percent turnover. People loved their jobs,” Nisbett said.

Horizon Foods shut the plant in June 2012, after less than a year of operation. About 180 people worked at the plant when it closed.

Early in 2012, another group of California-based investors provided funding that allowed Horizon to reopen the plant, which was once owned by Tyson Foods Inc. Renovating the plant cost as much as $5 million, according to reports.

As part of that process, Horizon received $329,000 from the Economic Development Corp. of Jefferson County to purchase refrigeration equipment. The money was secured by the equipment and was to have been repaid within five years by Horizon but could be offset by credits received for each worker hired.

Nisbett said that Summit will take over the equipment loan and jobs-for-credit arrangement.

“Basically, they pick up where Horizon left off,” Nisbett said.

Under the loan terms, the company will get a $1,000 credit for each new job created, up to the purchase amount.

The first four years of the contract calls for annual payments of $20,000 (which could be offset by hiring credits). The remaining $249,000 is due in the loan’s fifth year and can also be offset by hiring credits. When it ran the processing plant, Horizon received $20,000 in credits in its first year toward the loan.

Business, Pages 26 on 12/19/2013

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