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Bell and Evans expansion could create 380 midstate jobs

Written by Tim Lambert, witf Multimedia News Director | Feb 6, 2014 1:55 PM
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(Harrisburg) -- The planned expansion of a poultry processing and packaging company's operations in Lebanon County is expected to create at least 380 full-time jobs over three years.

Bell and Evans has a facility in Bethel Township.

“Pennsylvania is a leader in agriculture and quality agriculture products and the support we receive from Governor Corbett is second to none,” said Scott L. Sechler Sr., Bell and Evans Chairman and President. “Our company has been here for generations and we’re very proud to be a Pennsylvania company, producing great products that we market in all 50 states.”

The company has purchased a 19.6 acre parcel of land to construct a new 158,000-square-foot poultry processing and packaging plant. It plans to invest more than $44 million in construction, new equipment and employee training.

“Bell & Evans has called Pennsylvania home for many years, and our partnership will support this latest expansion to create 380 new jobs and open the door for future growth,” Governor Corbett said in a statement. “It’s another success story in Pennsylvania’s strong agricultural history and heritage.”

According to the Corbett Administration, the company received a funding proposal from the state Department of Community and Economic Development including a 171,000 Guaranteed Free Training grant to be used to train its new workforce. Additional incentives include a $750,000 Pennsylvania First Program grant that facilitates investment and job creation and $760,000 in Job Creation Tax Credits. A $400,000 PennDot Transportation Infrastructure Investment grant was also included.

Bell and Evans is a leading producer of chickens raised without antibiotics and is the brand name for the company’s poultry product line. It is headquartered in Fredericksburg, Lebanon County where it employs approximately 1,145 people full time in its processing plant.

Meantime, Pennsylvania's senior U.S. senator is asking Perdue Farms to reconsider the company's plan to close BC Natural Chicken in Fredericksburg and move the jobs to North Carolina.

Democrat Bob Casey has sent a letter to Perdue Farm's Chairman Jim Perdue urging him to reverse course.

On January 15th, the company announced it was closing its chicken processing plant in Lebanon County and pulling the plug on a nearby distribution center in Denver, Lancaster County.  The decision would mean an estimated loss of 650 jobs.

Here's the text of Casey's letter:

Dear Mr. Perdue,

I am writing to you regarding the recent news reports that Perdue Farms intends to close BC Natural Chicken, located in Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania.  It is my hope that you will reverse this decision.

BC Natural Chicken currently employs hundreds of skilled workers in Lebanon County. Fredericksburg has been a center of poultry production in Pennsylvania for multiple generations. The BC Natural Chicken plant specifically has been a vital part of the community under various names for several decades. The community has served Perdue Farms well and I have no doubt they would continue to do so.

It is my understanding that Perdue has cited the need for plant upgrades as a reason to close BC Natural Chicken. I would ask that you exhaust all possible options to utilize the current facilities before making that drastic decision.  Furthermore, I would welcome the opportunity to work with you to maintain your presence in Fredericksburg. 

I strongly urge you to reconsider your decision to close BC Natural Chicken. I appreciate your attention to this important matter and hope that we may work together on this issue.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

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