SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – With the possibility of a Tyson chicken plant coming to Sedgwick County, many have protested the company on the basis of environmental issues. However, the main argument by those welcoming the plant is that it will bring jobs.
Tyson says, 1,600 jobs to be exact.
A spokesperson for Tyson said those jobs will be a mix of manufacturing jobs, starting at $13-$15/hour pay. Other skilled jobs like refrigeration techs and maintenance could start at $20/hour.
But does Sedgwick County have the people to fill 1,600 jobs?
“1,600 jobs is a pretty small fraction of the overall labor force today. We have over 300,000 people employed so when you look at 1,600 jobs this is a pretty small impact,” economic expert Jeremy Hill said.
Hill serves as director for the WSU Center for Economic Development and Business Research. He’s been cracking the numbers lately as talk of Tyson increases. He says 12,000 people in the Metropolitan Statistical Area are unemployed right now, and that approximately 20 percent came from manufacturing jobs.
“Kansas is a manufacturing state, and Wichita is a manufacturing town,” Hill said.
Hill says, for people currently in food service and eating and drinking establishments, a job at Tyson could be a good thing.
“This could be an upward mobility in career opportunities for the very low-skilled people that are working for food service jobs that could now see a better opportunity moving over to this occupation,” Hill said.
Numbers show that Kansas is five times more concentrated for meat-slaughtering jobs than the country’s average. Wichita does not reflect that same trend. Hill said Sedgwick County could absorb some manufacturing workers from cities like Dodge City and Emporia.
“Our economy has been growing really slowly, we’ve been struggling and we’re nowhere near our previous peak. Adding some jobs, given the weakness in our economy, could have some benefits to this regional economy when we’ve been pretty weak for a long time,” Hill said.
KSN reached out to both Haysville and Clearwater’s chambers of commerce.
Tim Massey, director of Haysville Chamber of Commerce said Haysville can handle the influx the jobs would bring.
“One, just the increase in traffic flow from workers would be close for the restaurants, for one thing and 0127 if we could get any of them to move here, that would be nice for our school size, the school has the ability to accept more students so that wouldn’t be a problem,” Massey said in a phone call.
He added though, a company that wants to add jobs in the vicinity would be an asset so long as they were a good community neighbor, a nod to the environmental concerns brought forth by those in the county.
KSN reached out to Clearwater Chamber of Commerce for comment but that request has not been returned. City leaders are under intense scrutiny in their response to the plant.