Emporia Leaders Say They'll Make Do

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Less than 24 hours after a Kansas food plant announces plans to shut down part of its operation, Emporia city and state leaders are looking ahead.

"The first step of the process is to figure out what some of the problems are going to be," explains City Manager Matt Zimmerman on Saturday morning. "Then we'll start working out some responses to those problems."

Zimmerman, along with Emporia Senator Jim Barnett, says the loss of 1,500 jobs at the Tyson plant will be a significant blow to the local and regional economy.

Barnett estimates there is a 900-million dollar economy in the Emporia area. Tyson Foods accounts for roughly 80-million dollars, or almost 10 percent of that economy. Barnett and Zimmerman both say one of the concerns they've long had about Tyson's influence as the largest employer in Emporia is what would happen if the plant ever shut down.

"I think this is a wake up call for us to look at other opportunities for economic growth," Barnett said Saturday.

There are already plans in the works to help further diversify Emporia's economy, according to Matt Zimmerman.

"I really believe we'll be able to absorb this," he said. "In a few years, I believe we'll be back to where we were."

Tyson says it is moving slaughter operations to Western Kansas where the demand is higher. Nine hundred employees will remain in Emporia as part of the plants ground beef processing operations. Many of the 1,500 employees affected by Friday's announcement will have an opportunity to transfer within the company.

Those who seek other career opportunities will continue to be paid and receive benefits for an additional 60 days.

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