Tyson Foods renews commitment to Alabama’s agriculture industry with $208 million dollar investment in new Hanceville facility

Economic Development Director Dale Greer, Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail, Cullman County Commission Chairman Jeff Clemons, River Valley Ingredients Regional Manager Jason Spann, Dr. Vicki Karolewics, Dept. of Commerce Ted Clem (Sara Gladney for The Cullman Tribune)

HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Tyson Foods, Friday morning at Wallace State Community College, announced a new facility adjacent to its former Hanceville Tyson Foods/ River Valley Ingredients rendering plant. The previous plant was part of Tyson’s Hanceville complex and suffered a total loss due to a fire in July 2021.

Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics acknowledged the partnership between Wallace and River Valley Ingredients. “American Proteins River Valley Ingredients was the very first partner with Wallace State Community College in the 2003 era and it has been a good ride. We have a poultry science program partnership pathway with Auburn University because of that partnership, so American Proteins River Valley Ingredients has been very important not only to Wallace State, but also to this community.”

Cullman Economic Development Director Dale Greer thanked the many industry partners present including Senator Garlan Gudger, Representative Randall Shedd, the Cullman County Commissioners, the Hanceville and Cullman City Councils, the Economic Development Agencies, Cullman Electric Co-op, and the City Industrial Development Board, saying, “There’s an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child, well it takes a community to be successful in Economic Development.”

Regional Manager of River Valley Ingredients Jason Spann shared some information about the Alabama poultry industry. “The Alabama poultry industry is about a $15 billion economic impact to the state annually. It makes up about 66% of the total commercial agriculture sales in the state of Alabama annually. It employs somewhere north of 86,000 people in the state. There are 23 poultry complexes in the state of Alabama that process 21 million broilers per week. In this county alone, Cullman County is the number one poultry production county in the state, so we can be proud of that.”

The new $208 million, 121,000 square foot facility is the single largest investment in Hanceville to date. The facility is expected to be completed in mid-2023. Tyson Foods is retaining its 124 team members who worked at the previous Hanceville plant throughout the two-year construction period.

The Hanceville rendering plant services many of the state’s poultry processors and their employees, as well as others in neighboring states. The rendering process helps reduce waste by breaking down and cooking parts of the chicken people don’t eat into usable proteins and fats. “We take those inedible products, and we convert those into a sellable protein and fats that we sell all over the world. There’s roughly 50 billion pounds of by-products available in the United States every year. There’s 140 million pounds of raw material processed daily in the United States. Without rendering, some estimates say that landfills in the U.S. would completely fill up in four weeks. So, rendering is the safest method that we know of at disposing of those non-edible animal parts,” Spann said. “At full capacity, pre-fire, the Hanceville division rendered approximately two billion pounds of those materials out of the Alabama poultry industry annually. It was the largest poultry rendering plant in the world.”

The catastrophic fire on July 30, 2021 at the previous facility destroyed the capacity to process over 30 million pounds a week of those products. “That put the Alabama poultry industry in jeopardy, but through the hard work of Tyson and the River Valley team and our risk assessments and everything we had in place, we managed to get through that… We are gonna build back in this community better and stronger,” said Spann.

Dale Greer also acknowledged the 13 fire departments who helped to extinguish the blaze at the previous facility and the company’s reciprocated support of the fire departments, “The night of the fire, dozens of fire departments responded to the blaze to help limit the damage. At a time when Tyson Foods was devising a plan to handle waste to allow Alabama processing plants to reopen, they wrote checks for more than $258,000 for new equipment for 13 fire departments that helped extinguish the fire.”

Business Development Director for the Alabama Department of Commerce Ted Clem congratulated the company of behalf of Governor Kay Ivey. “Congratulations on this great day, and what a company, that made a commitment to their employees. No one lost their job through this crisis, and they made a commitment to this community. When a company reinvests in your community, it says a lot about you, the kind of community you are, and the support you give your local industry. This company provides a vital service to the poultry industry statewide. Without that capacity, there would have been a big hole in our state.”

County Commission Chairman Jeff Clemons noted, “This facility has provided hundreds of jobs in Cullman County for years, and the new plant will continue that legacy. River Valley has helped Cullman become a leader in poultry production in Alabama and the country. We are honored to have Tyson Foods rebuild in Cullman.”

Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail views the company as part of his community, saying, “We have never had a company more supportive of community projects and needs. Tyson Foods is a great corporate citizen and Hanceville will continue to claim them as our company.”

Greer concluded by echoing how the community support played a significant role in Tyson Food’s decision to rebuild in Cullman County. “Tyson Foods could realistically build a new plant in dozens of locations in the Southeast. They are reinvesting here because there is a history of local and state government support for the company and a proven track record that Cullman County can provide a quality, dependable workforce. It is a true partnership.”

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