Shenandoah Processing LLC, a newly-formed, locally-owned company located in Harrisonburg, will reopen a former Pilgrim’s Pride poultry processing facility and create 102 new full-time equivalent positions.
During the three-year project, Shenandoah Processing will invest more than $2.2 million in capital improvements and purchase an additional $160 million of Virginia grown poultry from Virginia growers over the next three years. The Shenandoah Processing facility will serve the growing market for organically raised and “all-natural” chicken.
“Shenandoah Processing is a tremendous example of the entrepreneurial underpinnings of Virginia agriculture,” Gov. Bob McDonnell said in a statement. “Starting first as a poultry grower, Shenandoah Processing owner Corwin Heatwole is building on his experience in opening a processing facility that will provide a new market for other growers and create jobs in the Harrisonburg area. Over the four years of my administration, we’ve made sure that business owners such as Mr. Heatwole have the opportunities and environment they need to be successful and bring jobs and more economic security to the Commonwealth.”
Shenandoah Processing will provide processing services for Shenandoah Valley Organics, a poultry growing operation also started by Mr. Heatwole. In addition, the facility will provide custom processing services to individual farmers and growers who wish to have poultry prepared for retail sale. The facility will offer five end products: whole birds, boneless breasts, leg quarters, paws, and basic cut-up. The facility start-up will involve Shenandoah Processing leasing the facility and up-fitting with processing equipment. The facility will go from processing approximately 20,000 birds a day in year one to 30,000 birds a day in year two to 50,000 birds a day in year three.
“Through this project, Shenandoah Processing is adding further diversity to Virginia’s number one agricultural commodity – poultry,” said Todd P. Haymore, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. “The Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) program is once again fulfilling its mission of encouraging further development of agricultural and forestry processing facilities while providing new opportunities for Virginia’s agricultural producers. The additional capital investment and job creation at the re-started facility is outstanding for Harrisonburg. I am especially pleased about Shenandoah Processing’s commitment that practically 100% of the poultry processed at the facility will be from Virginia growers. The local agricultural economy in Rockingham and surrounding counties will benefit greatly from having this new operation come online.”
Shenandoah Valley Organics will work with poultry growers in the Central Shenandoah Valley to source their birds for Shenandoah Processing, targeting production of almost 11 million, high-quality, organic chickens in the first three years. In many instances, growers will be able to use existing poultry houses that are currently out of production in order to serve the new demand. By year three, Shenandoah Processing is expecting to require the full-time use of 106 poultry houses and provide opportunities for up to 70 farmers.
The president of Shenandoah Processing, Corwin Heatwole, said, “We believe there is a significant demand for certified organic/humanly raised chicken products. This awareness will only increase. We are excited to be bringing this project to the Valley and know it will help create a source of income for many families here in the Valley. One of the most important parts of this project is the life that will be brought back to many poultry houses that are currently out of production. We greatly appreciate the support that has been felt from locals, Harrisonburg, and the State.”
The economic ripple effect of activities at Shenandoah Processing will be substantial in the surrounding community. New poultry production will result in greater demand for equipment providers, poultry veterinarians, farm hands, feed suppliers and other operations that support the substantial poultry industry in the Shenandoah Valley. The poultry industry – chickens, turkeys, and eggs – generated over a $1 billion alone in farm sales in 2012 and contributes just over $8 billion in economic activity to the Commonwealth on an annual basis.
“Harrisonburg is excited to welcome Shenandoah Processing LLC as the newest member of our business community,” commented Mayor Ted Byrd. “Food processing is obviously our largest industry sector in the Shenandoah Valley, and Harrisonburg is pleased to be the location of the Valley’s first commercial-scale organic poultry processing facility. There is an ever-growing demand for organic poultry products, and there is extremely limited processing capacity within the Commonwealth. Shenandoah Processing has a well-designed business plan to help meet that market need.”
Harrisonburg Economic Development Director Brian Shull added, “Shenandoah Processing will be repurposing an idle processing plant that has been off-line for many years. Bringing this facility back into production, along with significant capital investment and new job creation, makes this a very important announcement for Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley Partnership.”
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) worked with the City of Harrisonburg to help make the project a reality. Governor McDonnell approved a $50,000 matching grant from the Governor’s AFID Fund to assist Harrisonburg with the project. The project is receiving additional assistance through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.
According to a 2013 economic impact study by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, agriculture and forestry are two of Virginia’s largest industries, with a combined economic impact of $70 billion annually. Agriculture generates more than $52 billion per annum, while forestry induces over $17 billion. The industries also provide more than 400,000 jobs in the Commonwealth.