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Shuttered chicken plant in Davie to reopen, create 200 jobs over 3 years

Shuttered chicken plant in Davie to reopen, create 200 jobs over 3 years

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Poultry production will resume in Mocksville this summer, nearly three years after Davie County experienced its largest single business closing when Omtron USA LLC shut down a plant in July 2011, eliminating 476 jobs.

House of Raeford Farms, based in Rose Hill, is reopening the former Crestwood Farms/Townsends plant on 251 Eaton Road, according to a statement released today by the Davie County Economic Development Commission.

House of Raeford acquired the facility at a public auction in October for an undisclosed price. Auction company Rabin Worldwide, based in San Francisco, bought the 65,000-square-foot facility and six acres for $5.6 million in August and retained the processing equipment.

House of Raeford chose to reopen the Mocksville plant, rather than moving the equipment to other plants, and invest in up-fitting the facilities, according to the Davie statement.

Steve Mixon, who will be the production manager, said in the statement that the company already has hired 35 full-time employees and expects to add another 200 over two years.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” Mixon said. “After 70 years in the business, Raeford Farms doesn’t give up on long-term projects. We are starting out slow and building the right team.”

The company has about 2,335 employees in North Carolina and 5,500 overall, including in Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina.

Dave Whitter, a spokesman for House of Raeford, said the company would provide more details about the Mocksville plant once it is finished testing equipment.

Terry Bralley, president of the Davie economic commission, said the county is “very fortunate to have a North Carolina family owned business come in to bring this plant back to life.”

“It is one of the reasons that agriculture continues to be the No. 1 industry in North Carolina.”

The Davie statement said all hiring would be done through the N.C. Division of Employment Security, with military veterans being giving “first shot at new job openings.” The statement did not disclose a projected salary range.

The pledge to the Mocksville plant reflects recent changes by House of Raeford.

In March 2013, the company said it was eliminating 980 jobs in Rose Hill and Raeford as part of shifting its production focus from turkeys to chickens. The company maintained its Raeford cook plant and plans to expand production of cooked turkey and chicken products.

The primary reason the Mocksville plant was closed, and Raeford abandoned turkey production, was the high cost of corn, which both groups blamed on government ethanol mandates. Bralley said he heard that higher corn costs had added about $1 million a month to the Mocksville plant's operation expenses.

Chicken represents at least 90 percent of Raeford’s sales and have grown briskly, the company said.

Omtron was a U.S. corporation created by Oleg Bakhmatyuk, a billionaire Ukrainian businessman who owns food, transportation, real estate and financial companies. His goal was to grow chickens less expensively in the United States and then ship part of the production back to the Ukraine.

Rabin was the lone bidder for properties in Mocksville, Pittsboro and Siler City that Omtron bought for $24.9 million during bankruptcy proceedings for Townsends in February 2011.

rcraver@wsjournal.com

(336) 727-7376

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