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Breaking ground

Construction on Mar-Jac Poultry’s feed mill in Spruce Pine is progressing, and Friday the company broke ground on another aspect of its Franklin County operations: the hatchery in the Phil Campbell Industrial Park.

“It’s exciting to be actually standing on the ground, seeing the equipment and knowing the plans and seeing it in action,” Franklin County Development Authority Interim Director Sherye Price said.

Project manager Keith Martin said the hatchery represents a substantial upgrade from the company’s Moulton hatchery. The outdated Lawrence County operation has a capacity of 1.3 million eggs per week, as compared to plans for the new, more modern facility – 2.2 million eggs per week. The hatchery will be 78,000 square feet and mean about 25 new jobs, Martin said.

“We’ll take in eggs laid at farms that our contract growers own, and we’ll incubate them. Twenty-one days later they will hatch as baby chicks, and we’ll take them out to more contract farmers, and they will grow those up into broilers,” Martin explained. The new, technologically-advanced facility will, Martin added, “feature some automation, including robotics.”

North Alabama complex manager Lou Ayers called the hatchery “a great step forward” for Mar-Jac.

“This much better fits our grower base, with the majority of our houses being in this area,” he said. “We’re really excited about getting this done.”

The hatchery is set to be operational August 2017.

“It’s exciting for us,” said Phil Campbell Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Danny Brown. “We look forward to a good relationship with Mar-Jac.”