More than 100 city, civic and business leaders turned out Thursday (July 7) to welcome the first 100 employees of Tyson Foods Inc. back to the company roots in downtown Springdale.
John Tyson, chairman of the Board of Directors and grandson of the company founder, said, “Harvey and Bernice (Jones) and my dad and granddad would be happy” about the company’s commitment to bring employees, scattered in different locations, back to Emma Avenue.
“I told you we would get back downtown and today is the first step,” Tyson said. “This is the first building to open in the commitment made by the family and the company.”
Tyson said he has been asked if the company’s development would help spur the downtown revitalization. He said he replied, “It’s not going to hurt.”
The event marked the completion of renovations to the former Orscheln Farm and Home store at 516 E. Emma Ave. The building was one of the original truck terminals for Jones Truck Lines and then was home to the former Springdale News before Orscheln moved in several years ago.
Tyson purchased the 30,000 square-foot building in 2014 when it announced a multimillion-dollar investment in downtown with the renovation of the building now called the JTL Building. The next phase of construction of new office space at the site of the original hatchery buildings a block away on Emma Avenue is already underway.
The JTL Building was constructed in the 1930s, according to a history of the building handed out during the open house.
About 300 employees will be assigned to the new office space, now under construction by Milestone Construction Co. The project starts on Emma and extends south to Meadow Street and crossing Meadow. The new building will have 44,000 square feet. Tyson Foods’ financial investment is in “the tens of millions of dollars,” a spokesman said.
The JTL Building houses the company store – three times larger than its previous location in Lowell – as well as the credit, accounts receivable and billing departments and consolidates the Northwest Arkansas live production operations which serves over 400 farmers who supply Tyson with product. Employees have moved into the JTL Building and the company store will open next week for employees, family members and nonprofit organizations.
Mayor Doug Sprouse called the renovation “amazing. It’s such a big boon to downtown and our revitalization efforts.” Sprouse said potential investors will see the Tyson investment and know the revitalization is real. “It’s difficult to overstate the significance” of the Tyson investment, he added.
Tyson also said the move of 400 employees into downtown office space may encourage small businesses to open in the downtown area to serve the employees. A graduate of Springdale High School, Tyson recalled Springdale when the population was 5,000.
“You got to the railroad bridge (on South Thompson Avenue), you were out of Springdale.”
“Springdale is in my DNA,” Tyson said. “It’s nice to be back.”