RICHMOND, Va. – A poultry processor intends to breathe new life into a former Pilgrim's Pride facility in Harrisonburg, Va.

Shenandoah Processing, LLC, a newly formed company owned by Corwin Heatwole, will start out leasing the facility, and the owner plans to spend more than $2.2 million toward capital improvements at the plant. The birds will be processed under the Shenandoah Valley Organics brand, a poultry growing operation also owned by Heatwole. Shenandoah Processing will buy $160 million of Virginia-grown poultry, which will be sold as organic or "all-natural" products. The company expects to create 102 full time equivalent positions.

"We believe there is a significant demand for certified organic/humanely raised chicken products," Heatwole said. "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."

Heatwole wants to source the birds from the Central Shenandoah Valley, with a production target of roughly 11 million organic chickens in the first three years. The facility will start processing approximately 20,000 birds a day the first year, 30,000 birds a day in the second year and 50,000 birds a day in year three. Shenandoah Processing expects to use 106 poultry houses on a full-time basis by the third year of operation.

The company also plans to offer custom processing services to individual farmers and growers. The facility will offer five finished products: whole birds, boneless breasts, leg quarters, paws, and basic cut-up.

"Shenandoah Processing is a tremendous example of the entrepreneurial underpinnings of Virginia agriculture," said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. "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."