Organic Chicken Plant To Bring More Than 100 Jobs to the Valley


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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -- Governor Bob McDonnell visited Harrisonburg Monday as he came to talk about a local company and how leaders are hatching a plan to bring more jobs to the Valley.

"It's not easy being a small business man there's a lot of obstacles," said McDonnell.

After years of planning, Corwin Heatwole and Wayne Billhimer are opening the first organic commercial chicken plant in Virginia.

"They want to know what's in their chicken and where their chicken came from. With organic chicken, it's 100 percent the way mother nature intended it, there's no antibiotics," said Billhimer.

The plant will employ 102 full-time people.

"We started out with just a handful of birds. We had no idea how fast this would snowball," said Billhimer.

With the help of a $50,000 grant from the Governor's Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, that's matched by the City of Harrisonburg.

With just 30 days to go in office, the governor wants to leave a legacy of supporting agriculture.

"Well agriculture and forest products is the largest industry and Virginia and there's so many hardworking great people that are in this industry around the state, so I want to showcase this industry. We've integrated it fully into our economic development strategy," said McDonnell, "These are great people, and I want to do everything I can to help there's 415,000 people involved in the agriculture and forest product industry, it's a huge segment."

And for Heatwole, who grew up handling commercial poultry, it's a chance to give jobs to farmers as well.

"There will be feed companies and hatcheries. The companies that fix the chicken houses up and prepare them [there] will be many other jobs created," said Heatwole.

From just thousands of chickens on his first farm, to 20,000 birds a day.

"Started his own business when he was just 19 with 26,000, so you've come a long way baby," said McDonnell.

The company will be buying about $160 million worth of poultry over the next three years.

A big thing for the owners is helping other farmers bring chicken houses back into production that have closed.

They have another business, Shenandoah Valley Organics, where they buy chickens from local farmers.

All of the chickens are humanely raised with space to roam

Heatwole and Billhimer plan to open the plant in January.


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