“Happy days are here again” may be the song being sung around Noxubee County with the announcement of Koch Foods opening a facility there and putting 400 people on its payroll. Many of those 400 new jobs will be held by workers who lost jobs when the county’s Delta Pride of the South catfish processing plant closed earlier this year. The annual payroll is expected to be $10.5 million.
Rated in Forbes Top 300 largest private companies in the U.S., Koch (pronounced ‘cook’) produces poultry products and will occupy the facility that housed Delta Pride. It is located just outside Brooksville at the junction of Highway 14 and County Road 388 as a stand-alone facility. No startup date has been announced. County officials said Koch purchased the existing facility and is re-fitting it to their specifications.
“At this point, the company is determining what they need to do to get the facility ready. It will take a little time but we’ll help to make it happen as fast as possible,” said Brian Wilson, interim director of the Noxubee County Economic Development Office. “We’re trying to make the infrastructure ready for them.”
Between 200 and 250 people lost jobs when Delta Pride closed shop. Wilson said many of those went on to other jobs with some driving to another catfish processing plant in Sebastopol.
“We have a workforce that’s trained for this industry and people lined up to go to work,” he said. “We’ll certainly encourage Koch to hire those who lost their jobs.”
There has been training in the county specifically for the poultry industry through East Mississippi Community College and other state workforce partners. The East Mississippi rural county of 12,000, which Wilson describes as a bedroom community for the Golden Triangle, currently has a 13% unemployment rate that translates into approximately 400 jobs.
“You can see from that what a tremendous impact this employer will have on our economy,” he said. “We’re very grateful to get it. A lot of people still can’t believe it’s true.”
With assistance from the Mississippi Development Authority, the Governor’s Office and the Tennessee Valley Authority, Noxubee County went to work to secure a new industry when the state-of-the-art catfish processing plant closed. That’s assistance Wilson said county officials appreciate. There were two good prospects, including one that would have brought 300 jobs to the area.
“The third time is the charm and this company is bringing 400 jobs that pay above the county’s average salary of $22,000. Koch’s average salary will be $26, 000,” he said.
William Oliver, president of the Noxubee County Board of Supervisors, said the county appreciates that a respected business recognized by Forbes as one of the largest private companies in the U.S. saw the attractive benefits the county has to offer. Those benefits include GO Zone tax incentives, affordable TVA-generated power, the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, major rail service and four-lane highway access.
“The Board of Supervisors and the county will continue to assist Koch Foods in any way possible,” he said. “We want to welcome them to our home, Noxubee County — the best kept secret in Mississippi.”
Koch Foods Inc. operates under different brand names and will most probably produce chicken tenders at the Brooksville plant, according to Wilson. The company was founded in 1973 in Chicago where it has headquarters. It has two operations in Scott County with a national employee-base of 8,000 and approximately $1.5 billion in annual revenue.
“It’s an aggressive company — the fastest-growing and largest poultry company in the United States — and we welcome them as a neighbor and partner in our continued growth,” Wilson said. “Today is a great leap forward for our economy and a sign of the many good things to come.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.