Tyson Foods puts Buena Vista plant, 190 workers on the chopping block

Poultry processing giant Tyson Foods is shutting down its plant in nearby Buenas Vista, Ga., by the end of May, eliminating about 190 jobs.

Even sooner, on April 10, Arkansas-based Tyson said it will also slash a shift at its facility in Dawson, Ga., putting 70 people out of work.

The Buena Vista plant closure is due to “changing product needs” in the consumer market, the company said, while the age of the factory didn’t work in its favor, either. The firm called the cost to renovate and bring the facility up to date “prohibitive.”

Noel White, Tyson Foods president of poultry, in a statement, called the plant closure and its impact on employees and their families a “tough decision,” but said it was required because “our business needs have changed in southern Georgia.”

Two months ago, Tyson Foods announced it was investing $110 million into modernizing and expanding its poultry plant in Vienna, Ga., which will add 100,000 square feet to the facility. Production there will be changed from its focus on food-service customers, such as restaurants, to fresh packs of chicken bound for retail stores in the region.

The Vienna plant upgrade is under way and expected to be completed this summer. The company initially said that project would add about 500 jobs in Vienna. In the Buena Vista plant closure announcement, it said the Vienna expansion would create more than 700 new jobs, on top of the 700 workers already there.

The Buena Vista plant — 33 miles southeast of Columbus in Marion County — is about 54 miles from Vienna. The Dawson facility is even farther south in Terrell County.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development said in January it is helping Tyson Foods with the Vienna project through job tax credits and assistance with training new and existing workers with the state’s Quick Start program.

Tyson Foods has operated the Buena Vista processing plant since 1995. That’s when it purchased the facility and the one in Vienna from Cargill Inc. Tyson reported sales topping $34 billion in fiscal year 2013, operating more than 100 chicken, beef, pork and prepared food plants altogether.