Tyson plant closures prompt economic soul-searching in the Ozarks

The recent closure of a Tyson Foods chicken processing plant in northwest Arkansas has sparked economic soul-searching in the Ozarks, including plans for how to transition before other businesses rethink their future.

The Tyson plant, located in Rogers, was shut down at the end of August, leaving 435 workers without jobs. While Tyson officials had already announced back in April that the plant would be shuttered, it still served as a shock to the Ozarks economy.

Tyson had been an area stalwart since it opened its first poultry house in Bentonville in 1935, and local businesses almost entirely depend upon it for their livelihood. Rogers Mayor Greg Hines estimates that 75% of the city’s economy is based on Tyson.

With its closure, local officials have launched initiatives to bring in new businesses and to diversify the area’s economy.

One such effort is the Northwest Arkansas Regional Plan, a collaboration between local and state development entities to encourage collaboration and attract new businesses and capital.

The plan’s goals include promoting economic development and creating jobs in the region, especially for Tyson workers who have lost their jobs. It also calls for creating training and career paths that will help displaced Tyson employees find more permanent employment in the region.

The Rogers―Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce has also created a Task Force to assist with transitioning Tyson employees. The task force is working with job-seekers to connect them with resources and networks for employment, providing information about local employers and job opportunities. It is also helping underwrite the costs of retraining existing Tyson employees for new jobs.

The closure of the Tyson plant in Rogers may be a sign that the Ozarks economic engine is shifting, but with the help of local and state agencies, area businesses hope to use this as an opportunity for growth and renewed vitality.