Pilgrim's Pride plant may re-open - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Pilgrim's Pride plant may re-open

By Christian Jennings - bio | email

DOUGLAS,  GA (WALB) - There's some potential good news for an area devastated by the closing of a major chicken plant earlier this year.

Pilgrim's Pride closed its Douglas plant in May.

Now, there's a chance the plant could reopen. Today a group of poultry growers held a meeting to talk about their concerns and hardships.

Hamp and Cheri McKinnon have been in the poultry business for more than 30 years.

"This is one of our 13 chicken houses," he says.

A quarter of a million dollar chicken house, minus the chickens. All that's left are feathers and a hefty bill.

"They've been empty since April."

Empty because in May Pilgrim's Pride's Douglas plant closed after the company filed for bankruptcy last December. Leaving 1288 people unemployed, and hundreds of growers like the McKinnons out of work.

Today dozens of frustrated growers met at Po Boy's restaurant in Douglas to voice their concerns to gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes.  But it was attorney Sid Cottingham who brought some good news.

"A company called JBS out of Brazil, they're going to come in and today the court approved them purchasing 64 % of the majority interest of Pilgrims," he said.

Meaning the now empty parking lot may once again be full.

"We are very optimistic our plant will re-open," said Cottingham.

Possibly by June or earlier. But for grower Walt Dockery, June feels like forever away.

"I already had to refinance my house.  It's going to be a strain to hold on another six months," he said.

"This has been the toughest six months of our whole marriage," said the McKinnons.  

They hope to tough it out six more, reluctant to give up hope.

"We just love to grow chickens, it's all we've ever done," they said.

Now they're focusing their prayers on Pilgrim's Pride. Because their livelihood depends on it.

Growers in Douglas say 90 percent of the local economy there comes from the poultry business. A recent study showed the plant's closing caused 3800 total job losses in the community.

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