Tyson Foods had previously announced plans to build a $320 million poultry complex in eastern Kansas.  The company was to construct a processing plant, hatchery, and feed mill near the city of Tonganoxie in Leavenworth County.  However, the company has put the project “on hold.”

Tyson is looking at other locations in Kansas and other states after public outcry and a local decision to back away from promised incentives.  In a letter to the Leavenworth County community on Tuesday, Tyson poultry president Doug Ramsey wrote, “We’d still like to get to know each other, however, after Monday’s reversal of support by the Leavenworth County commissioners, we will put our plans in your community on hold. We still have interest in Leavenworth County, but will prioritize the other locations in Kansas and other states that have expressed support.”

As a result, more than a dozen communities in Kansas have contacted the state about having Tyson build the proposed plant in their area, said Jackie McClaskey, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture.  “There are a lot of discussions happening among local leadership in some of those communities who were paying attention,” McClaskey said. “They’re getting ready, so to speak, to put their names forward. ”

McClaskey said 15 to 20 other Kansas communities have now expressed interest in the plant. She and others are working to determine whether those areas could meet the needs of the facility. “They have not backed out of their commitment that they want to do business in Kansas. They want to expand in Kansas,” she said. “I feel like right now they’re giving us a shot.”

Interim Commerce Secretary Nick Jordan said they’re making a sales pitch to keep Tyson looking at Kansas. “To let them know the state wants them to be here,” Jordan said. “We’ve got plenty of other communities that fit their needs very, very well. We want to get off and running again working with them to find a spot that does fit for them.”  Jordan said, if the plant goes to another state, Kansas would lose an investment of more than $300 million and 1,600 jobs.

“We’re missing out on a significant economic impact on the state economy and growth to the agricultural base that we have in the state,” Jordan said.

Local residents voiced opposition to the Leavenworth County proposal, saying it could reduce the quality of life in the community. At a public meeting last week, concerns about pollution and other impacts from the plant were brought up. Critics of the project were also unhappy that the Leavenworth County deal was brokered behind closed doors and not made public until an announcement earlier this month.