North Carolina-based turkey producer Butterball announced Wednesday (Jan. 13) an $8.7 million, three-year investment in two of the company’s processing facilities in Arkansas.
The expansion includes a $4.7 million investment in Ozark, where the company will create 160 jobs, and a $4 million investment in Huntsville, where it will create 200 new jobs.
“Having been a longstanding employer in Arkansas through our feed mills, turkey growing operations and production facilities, Butterball appreciates the continued support from the state of Arkansas as we look to expand some of our processing operations at our Huntsville and Ozark, Arkansas facilities,” Butterball President and CEO Jay Jandrain said in a statement. “We are proud to continue to be vital contributors to and key supporters of the local communities in which we operate and we’re grateful for the hardworking people of Arkansas.”
Butterball is the largest turkey products producer in the U.S., producing more than 1 billion pounds of turkey annual. The company’s Huntsville facility produces prepackaged fresh, frozen and cooked whole turkeys, turkey breasts and roasts and prepackaged bone-in tray pack turkey products. At the Ozark facility, Butterball produces pre-packaged fresh and frozen whole turkeys. Butterball has a third processing facility in Jonesboro and feed mills in Yellville and Alix (Franklin County).
“This is a great day for Northwest Arkansas,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement. “The trust that they have placed in our workforce and business climate is a great testament to the hard work and dedication of our state and these two communities.”
Butterball is one of the country’s most iconic turkey brands. Its “Traditions with Purpose” program emphasizes the company’s commitment to its four pillars of corporate citizenship – People, Plate, Planet, and Philanthropy. While Butterball is famous for its holiday Turkey Talk-Line, the company also aids communities by providing meals during natural disasters, sponsors American Heart Association Heart Walks, donates products to Feeding America, offers leadership development programs, and works to reduce the company’s environmental footprint.
Butterball plans to upgrade processing equipment, expand cooler space, and implement production line modifications at its Huntsville facility. The existing facility will also be remodeled to include a new training area, team member welfare areas and offices.
“The city of Huntsville is very excited at the prospect of adding so many jobs to our local economy,” Huntsville Mayor Darrell Trahan said. “The last statistical analysis of our workforce showed greater than 70% of our employed citizens were driving out of the county to work. We sincerely hope this will alleviate their need to drive.”
At its Ozark plant, the company plans to upgrade processing equipment and expand refrigeration capacity. Butterball will also remodel many of the team member welfare areas at the facility.
“The city of Ozark and the citizens of our area are extremely excited for the proposed investment in the local Butterball facility,” Ozark Mayor Roxie Hall said. “The Butterball facility in Ozark has long been a primary employer in our area. This expansion will provide additional opportunities for those of our community to support their families as well as expand the economy of the area.”
The investment and job growth in the Arkansas plants comes at the expense of a plant rationalization in Carthage, Mo. The company announced in December it was downsizing the Carthage plant with the loss of 450 jobs, roughly half of the plant’s workforce. Those layoffs are to begin March 1.
Jandrain said in December the company was significantly changing its manufacturing operations at the Carthage plant in an effort to balance production with demand.
“Long-term adverse conditions in the commodities market, where Butterball has routinely sold excess protein produced at the [Carthage] facility, has resulted in the need to ramp down certain production processes at this location.” he said.
Jandrain said impacted workers would have the opportunity to relocate to other Butterball facilities and severance packages.
“We plan to identify resources for outplacement and retraining for any impacted team members,” he added.
Butterball said the Carthage plant will continue to produce ground turkey and turkey burgers using raw material produced at other Butterball facilities.
Editor’s note: Talk Business & Politics reporter Kim Souza contributed to this article.