Ozark Mountain Poultry opens plant in Arkansas
by Bryan Salvage
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WARREN, Ark. – Four years ago, H&L Poultry, a southeastern Arkansas poultry plant closed but it has recently reopened as a poultry deboning facility, reports The Associated Press. After months of renovating the plant, Ozark Mountain Poultry started up operations at the former H&L plant on Oct. 3 in Warren. Approximately 124 people are employed there and if product demand is strong – a second shift could be added that would double the number of workers.
The company produces and processes antibiotic-free chickens for foodservice and retail customers under the Forester Farmer's Market brand. This sector of the market is growing, said Ed Fryar, CEO. He added that he launched the Rogers-based Ozark Mountain Poultry in 2001 with 25 employees, and now employs more than 1,100 people who process 3 million lbs. of finished product per week.
"I've always had a bit of [a] soft spot in my heart for Warren [Arkansas]," Fryar said. He added the company is taking a measured approach to its business. “We win by changing the world one chicken at a time."
The Arkansas Development Finance Authority previously owned the building while H&L Poultry was operating it and maintained it after the company left, said Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. He added the authority is now leasing the facility to Ozark Mountain Poultry.
The biggest challenge was getting the building up to standards after thieves took copper from parts of the facility, Fryar said.
"The first time I saw this plant just a couple of months ago, the ammonia system, the refrigeration system, was in the worst shape of any refrigeration system I've ever seen in any plant anywhere," he said.
In October 2013, Ozark Mountain Poultry bought the Pilgrim's Pride plant in Batesville, reopened it and created approximately 250 jobs.