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Garden City ready for influx of displaced Tyson workers

GARDEN CITY, Kan. _ The decision by Tyson Foods Inc. to lay off 1,500 workers from its Emporia plant will likely send hundreds of people to western Kansas.

Officials in Garden City are ready.

"We've kind of got it down over the years," said assistant city manager Matt Allen. "This community kind of takes pride in being able to handle people of all walks of life."

Tyson began laying off workers in Emporia on Wednesday as part of a plan to end beef-slaughter operations at the facility due to an overcapacity at slaughterhouses and a shifting of production to western Kansas.

The Springdale, Ark.-based company ended its second-shift processing operations on Friday, a move that affected about 800 workers, and will later cease first-shift slaughtering operations, which will cost an additional 700 workers their jobs.

Some of the workers will end up at Tyson plants in Nebraska and Illinois, though many could move west to Kinney County. That could be a boost for an area that lost 2,000 jobs within the Garden City ConAgra beef plant burned down in 2000.

"We definitely understand the situation they're going through," said Eric Depperschmidt, director of Finney County Economic Development.

Garden City officials contacted Tyson as soon as they heard about the Emporia plant closing in hopes of easing the relocation process.

The city and social service organizations like the United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries will work to help find housing and services for the new arrivals in this town of about 28,000 people.

"There will definitely be some additional social services that will have to kick in to assists, at least some during the first months while they are here," said Consuelo Sandoval, a community developer for Mexican-American Ministries.

Tyson operates beef plants in Lexington, Neb.; Finney County, Kan.; Dakota City, Neb.; and Joslin, Ill. The company plans to provide pay and benefits to all workers for 60 days and pay qualified workers to move to jobs at other plants.

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Information from: The Hutchinson News, http://www.hutchnews.com

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