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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — An Alabama-based chicken processor will open a plant in northeast Mississippi to make and distribute frozen chicken products.

Peco Foods on Monday announced its plan to invest $40 million in West Point, hiring 300 people over the next four years.

The nation’s eighth-largest poultry processor, Peco says it needs more capacity to supply its customers, including restaurants, grocers and food service distributors.

“The addition of this new cold storage facility is a key component of our growth strategy and is perfectly tailored to meet our current needs as well as future plans,” Peco Foods CEO Mark Hickman said in a statement.

State and local incentives, including grants, property tax reductions and a discounted water and sewer rate, could benefit Peco by $13.7 million over 10 years.

Tuscaloosa-based Peco bought a vacant 185,000-square-foot (17,000-square-meter) cold storage warehouse in December that it plans to renovate to house the operation, said Mississippi Development Authority spokeswoman Tammy Craft.

She said the state will give Peco a $2.5 million grant to improve wastewater treatment and infrastructure. West Point has approved a cheaper water and sewer rate for high-volume users, which will save Peco up to $3.9 million over 10 years, depending on usage.

Peco will build a plant to pretreat its wastewater before sending it to the city for further treatment. West Point has additional water and sewer capacity to offer because it previously served the Sara Lee/Bryan Foods complex, which closed in 2007.

The state will also provide $500,000 for worker training.

West Point and Clay County have approved 10-year property tax breaks worth an estimated savings of $6.8 million over that time.

Clay County had suffered for years from persistently high unemployment. The county had a 5.4 percent jobless rate in March, compared to a 4.5 percent jobless rate statewide. Officials said last fall that the company will pay workers $15 to $17 an hour.

“This company is providing jobs in a sector we’re familiar with, in a more advanced environment, with a high rate of pay for our citizens,” West Point Mayor Robbie Robinson said in a statement.


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