- Associated Press - Saturday, October 4, 2014

WARREN, Ark. (AP) - A southeastern Arkansas poultry plant closed four years ago has reopened as a poultry deboning facility.

Ozark Mountain Poultry opened the Warren facility Friday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/1uKM8ed ). The company said 124 people will be employed there and that a second shift might be added to double the number of workers if product demand is strong.

Ozark Mountain raises chickens without antibiotics and sells them directly to restaurants and to retailers under the Forester Farmer’s Market brand.

Chief executive Ed Fryar said that sector of the market is growing. He said he started the Rogers-based Ozark Mountain Poultry in 2001 with 25 employees, and now has more than 1,100 workers processing 3 million pounds of finished product per week.

“I’ve always had a bit of (a) soft spot in my heart for Warren,” Fryar said. “How do we win? We win by changing the world one chicken at a time.”



Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said the Arkansas Development Finance Authority owned the building while H&L; Poultry was operating it and maintained it after the company left. He said the authority is now leasing the facility to Ozark Mountain Poultry.

“Anytime a major employer closes an existing facility, particularly in a small community, the impact on the local economy is certainly substantial,” Hardin said. “When hundreds of families are affected by job loss, it’s very encouraging to know these same families will have the opportunity for new employment in the same sector that previously employed them.”

Fryar said the biggest challenge was getting the building up to standards after thieves took copper from parts of the facility.

“The first time I saw this plant just a couple of months ago, the ammonia system, the refrigeration system, was in the worst shape of any refrigeration system I’ve ever seen in any plant anywhere,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Ozark Mountain Poultry has reopened a closed facility. The company bought the Pilgrim’s Pride plant in Batesville in October 2013, reopened it and restored about 250 jobs.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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