(Missourinet Kennett affiliate KBOA contributed to this story)

Missouri’s poorest region is getting an economic boost, with a $50 million peanut processing plant that’s being built in southeast Missouri’s Kennett. Jonesboro-based Delta Peanut held a late May groundbreaking ceremony for the facility, which will create at least 50 new fulltime jobs.

Missouri lawmakers, agricultural leaders and Kennett officials helped break ground on a $50 million peanut processing plant in southeast Missouri’s Kennett on May 20, 2021 (photo courtesy of George Anderson of Bootheel magazine)

Governor Mike Parson praises the news, noting the average salary will be more than $37,000.

“When you get down there in that (southeast Missouri) Bootheel area, a job like that, $37,000 is a really good job down there in that area. But one of the things that we really want to focus on is how do we build in southeast Missouri,” Parson says.

In addition to the 50 new jobs at Delta Peanut, a dozen fulltime state and federal inspectors will also be hired for the site. Kennett Mayor Chancellor Wayne says new trucking jobs will also be created, due to the high demand for trucking services to bring peanuts from the field.

The Kennett site will be the state’s first peanut processing facility. During the May groundbreaking ceremony, Kennett utility superintendent David Wilkins told the audience that the plant would have a ripple effect on the entire region.

“Our board realized early on that every dollar that’s made here will circulate through the community, probably several times. And so, it’s a good deal for Kennett,” Wilkins says.

Construction is also set to begin soon on a new $25 million hospital in Kennett. The planned new hospital will have 49 beds and a 24-hour emergency room. The former Twin Rivers Medical Center in Kennett closed in 2018.

Kennett residents now have to drive to Arkansas, Poplar Bluff, Cape Girardeau or Sikeston for emergency room care and for hospitalization. Supporters of the new hospital say it will help about 70,000 residents across southeast Missouri and northeast Arkansas.

State Rep. Herman Morse (R-Dexter), has told Missourinet that Dunklin County must have a functioning hospital. He says Paragould, Jonesboro, Hayti and Poplar Bluff are too far away, in an emergency.

The governor says the new hospital highlights his efforts to bring new jobs to the Bootheel.

“One things that I heard from southeast Missouri a lot when I became governor was hey, nobody spends any time down here, nobody tries to help us. They felt like they’re a little left out,” Parson told Missourinet on Friday, during an interview in his Capitol office.

Nine of the ten poorest counties in the state are in southeast Missouri, and lawmakers in the region have been pushing for economic development.

State Sen. Jason Bean (R-Holcomb) says the Delta Peanut announcement shows the diversity of crops in the Bootheel.

“In my office in Jefferson City, actually that’s your office in Jefferson City, when you walk in, I have a picture of all the crops grown in the Bootheel. The number one picture that people look at and ask questions about is my picture of peanuts, and they don’t know that they’re grown in Missouri, but they do now,” Senator Bean told the audience in May in Kennett, according to Missourinet Kennett affiliate KBOA.

The 75 peanut farmers who will own Delta Peanut Kennett LLC also attended the May ceremony. Chief executive officer Tommy Jumper says they chose Kennett because more southeast Missouri farmers are raising peanuts. He praises the site location, saying it was available with access to infrastructure and utilities.

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