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The closure of Tyson meat plants in Missouri and Arkansas has prompted economic concerns in the Ozarks region.

  • Business
  • Sunday, 05 November 2023 15:16

While some former employees have found new jobs, policymakers are just beginning to address the challenges faced by these communities.

In August, Tyson Foods announced the closure of its chicken plant in Noel, Missouri, which employed 1,500 workers. The closure was part of a broader shake-up by the company, and it had a significant impact on the rural town of Noel, where Tyson was a major employer.

Jimi Lasiter, who had worked at the plant for 11 years, decided to stay in Noel as she awaited her $1,000 severance check. She was concerned about the impact of the closure on her community and didn't want to leave her colleagues with additional work. However, as of late September, she had not received her severance check, which complicated her plans to file for unemployment benefits and explore other job opportunities.

Many workers in rural areas like Noel are facing challenges in the job market, even as the national economy continues to add jobs. For those without nearby employment options, finding new opportunities can be difficult.

In October, the economy added 150,000 jobs, down from 297,000 in September, and unemployment ticked up to 3.9%. President Joe Biden has announced investments in agricultural and small-town infrastructure to spur economic growth in rural communities.

Tyson and local officials have organized job fairs for laid-off workers, and some employees are relocating to other Tyson facilities. Despite the closures, Tyson is building two new plants in Virginia and Kentucky that will employ a total of 850 people.

Corina Chinchilla, who worked at the Noel plant for 13 years, applied for a transfer to Tyson's plant in Monett, Missouri, a 35-minute drive from her home. She wanted to stay with the company and found a similar job opportunity in Monett. Other workers have expressed interest in relocating for job openings within the company.

While Tyson's closures have led to job losses, they are also creating opportunities in other regions, and many employees are exploring their options within the company.