January 15, 2015
A $14 million Columbia Farms chicken hatchery plans to become operational in Aiken County this spring.
Columbia Farms Inc., an affiliate of House Raeford Farms Inc., announced in October its plans to build a hatchery somewhere, but recently made the official announcement to move into Aiken County.
The new facility was announced through a press release provided to the Aiken Standard by Will Williams, president and CEO of the Economic Development Partnership in Aiken, Edgefield and Saluda counties.
House of Raeford is one of the country’s largest chicken processors, providing chicken and turkey products to food service, retail and export markets, according to their website.
Columbia Farms already is operating a feed mill in Monetta and a processing plant in West Columbia; the West Columbia, Leesville and Monetta facilities are three of five operated by House of Raeford, currently working with 87 contract growers producing more than 40 million chickens annually, according to the press release.
Jim Mabe, the complex manager of House of Raeford’s West Columbia and Leesville operations, said now is the right time to make a significant upgrade to the company’s live production operations, starting with the early life of the birds.
“The result of this investment will be to provide growers with a chick that is very consistent in size and quality,” Mabe said in the press release.
“They’ve been looking to modernize for a while,” Williams said. “This new hatchery gives them the opportunity to modernize and bring it up to speed with more modern equipment. This is a hatchery for hatching and then preparing to send them out to be processed. This is not as big and complex as you would have for where the actual growing occurs.”
The hatchery will sit on a portion of a 24-acre parcel right outside of Monetta proper in the county, with possible future plans to expand its operations, according to Williams.
Williams said the company does not plan to hire any new employees; the Leesville facility already runs with about 22 people and some of those employees will move to the County facility.
“I just see this as an opportunity for that property to improve the tax base in the Monetta area instead of that area just being or having dirt,” Williams said.
In the coming months, the company will go through the standard permit process with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control for ground disturbance, and get its plans signed off by the County’s department for planning and zoning.
“We want to welcome Columbia Farms of Georgia to Aiken County, and we greatly appreciate their investment,” said Ronnie Young, chairman of Aiken County Council. “Agriculture has been very important to Aiken County throughout its history, and we look forward to working with Columbia Farms in the years to come.”