Mountaire Farms to take over Siler City poultry plant

Mountaire Farms, a privately-owned food processing company based in Delaware, has reached an agreement to acquire the former Townsend poultry processing plant in Siler City.

The company plans to renovate and upgrade the plant. The expansion is expected to create more than 500 jobs.

The Siler City plant once employed more than a thousand people but has been closed for several years after cycling through a number of owners.

In 2014, poultry producer Carolina Premium Foods announced plans to take over the plant and renovate it using a grant from the state’s Rural Infrastructure Authority. But the grant was never authorized and the deal fell apart.

Millsboro-based Mountaire has more than 6,500 employees and operates facilities in Delaware, Maryland and North Carolina.

In addition to the poultry plant, Mountaire is acquiring an adjoining property. The company plans to expand a hatchery it recently acquired in Siler City and is also looking for a suitable location to build a feed mill.

Mountaire said it would also seek to establish relationships with local chicken farmers and grain suppliers.

The closing of the Townsend facility was devastating for Siler City, where the plant was both a major employer and one of the largest water users and taxpayers. The company also had contracts with chicken farmers in Chatham, Moore, Randolph and Harnett counties.

Delaware-based Townsend filed for bankruptcy in December 2010 after more than 100 years in business, undone by the rising cost of corn – the main ingredient in chicken feed – and weak chicken prices.

The company’s North Carolina assets were acquired by a Ukrainian billionaire, Oleg Bakhmatyuk, for $24.9 million in February 2011.

Omtron, the U.S. shell corporation Bakhmatyuk created, spent $7 million upgrading the Siler City plant. But Omtron abruptly announced in July 2011, that it would close the facilities by October and lay off 1,156 workers.

Omtron was later forced to sell its assets at auction, and they were acquired by a group led by Rabin Worldwide in July for $5.36 million. Rabin sold about 80 percent of the equipment in the Siler City plant to an Arkansas poultry company.

David Bracken: 919-829-4548, @brackendavid