Wayne Farms recently completed upgrades and expansion at its Enterprise area facility and, according to company officials, the changes bring hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in regional economic impact.

The poultry producing and processing company hosted a tour at the plant in Jack Tuesday morning to showcase the completed expansion, which adds around 117,000 square feet of processing space alone.

Officials broke ground on the expansion in Dec. 2017.

“Since that time, a lot has happened,” said Brad Williams, south Alabama area complex manager. “We’ve added about 200,000 square feet of building and spent about $110 million on this project — now we’re open and operating and doing well.”

The new and modernized facility contains state-of-the-art equipment and allows for automated de-boning, automated and controlled vacuum packaging, waterjet portioning and more.

The expansion also includes 30,000 square feet of offices and amenities, including a spacious and modernized break room for employees and additional upgrades to the wastewater treatment facility.

“This (has) increased our production by 40 percent,” said Eddie Fortner, Enterprise operations manager of Wayne Farms. “We were processing around 265,000 birds a day. With this, it’s moved us up to over 400,000 birds a day. So that’s over 2 million birds a week we process out of this facility.”

According to Frank Singleton, Wayne Farms media relations, the new plant is focused on production of Chick-fil-A products and a new Wayne Farms product line.

For reference, around 26,000 cases of nuggets and 27,000 cases of leg quarters will be moved each day at the facility, according to Neil Martin, assistant area complex manager.

Fortner said the work that went into planning, designing and constructing the new facility has paid off — especially from a work standpoint.

“Our new plant is actually twice the size of our original plant, but the most important part of it all is what’s inside the plant,” Fortner said. “We’ve added 350 jobs so far with the intention of getting up to 500 jobs. That’ll put us at a total of 1,500 jobs for this site — a huge economic impact for this community.

“They’re all full-time permanent positions here at the site. Those jobs are full benefit jobs with health and dental insurance, a nice 401k program that comes along with the job and we just increased our starting pay here to $11.30 an hour.”

Alongside the upgrades, Wayne Farms also announced a new “Naked Truth” product line, which will be produced to Global Animal Partnership Step 2 (GAP 2) standards. Requirements for GAP 2 — which the expanded facility is able to handle — are that chickens receive antibiotic-free and vegetarian diets, exposure to natural light and housing improvements “to promote natural chicken behaviors.”

Per GAP 2 standards, chickens are also exposed to controlled atmospheric stunning (CAS) before processing. The Enterprise/Jack facility is one of just five in the United States and Canada with that capability.

“Naked Truth” products will be sold in Whole Foods stores.

Singleton said this investment is part of a much larger investment made by Wayne Farms in the Wiregrass area over recent years. Recent investments include $150 million for expansion and modernization of the Dothan location, $55 million for construction of a poultry feed mill — the largest in the nation — near Ozark and $65 million from construction of 165 new poultry houses by local farms, along with the jobs created.

Singleton also said the Enterprise improvements will increase by approximately $11 million annually and significantly impact local family farms.

Fortner said he is proud of the new facility.

“We couldn’t have reached this point without a team effort,” said Fortner. “We’re in a great community that supports us — we’re more than a business here — we’re neighbors and partners in making Enterprise and Coffee County better and more prosperous. We’re proud that this facility and these new jobs are going to be part of that.”

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