There is a number that Beth Shelton, director of the Harvey County Economic Development Council, is pondering on a daily basis: 6.2 percent.

That is the current unemployment rate for Harvey County, according to the Kansas Department of Labor. Only two Kansas counties — Atchison and Linn, have a higher unemployment rate right now.

"Generally we are at 3.7," Shelton said. "That is high for us. ... I was surprised when I saw it."

She said manufacturing layoffs have led to that increase.   

"We have to be looking at jobs equal to or better than the jobs people lost," Shelton said. 

According to the Kansas Department of Labor, there are 1,120 people in Harvey County unemployed. That's another number Shelton ponders.

With layoffs in the manufacturing sector, and 1,120 people out of work, she spotted a project that she and the board of the EDC thought was worth exploring: a Tyson chicken packing plant.

"There are about 1,500 jobs at the hourly rate and about 200 jobs that are management salary," Shelton said.  "The jobs are $13.50 to $14.50 per hour. They are good paying jobs with good benefits."

She said byproduct would be hauled away and manufactured into something else at a different location and the plant is a "fresh pack" plant, which means the chicken processed will not be cooked at the plant — reducing the odor expected from the plant. 

"It sounds like a good project," Shelton said. "From (a market analysis) study, this is one of our target sectors."

Tyson is looking for between 150 and 200 acres with rail access. 

Tyson had announced intentions to locate in Tonganoxie before that deal went sour. The Leavenworth County Commission rebuffed Tyson, and just this week the Tonganoxie school district did as well. The day after the deal turned initiallly turned sour, Shelton contacted the Kansas Department of Agriculture, which was assisting Tyson with site selection.

More than 30 other communities did the same. Shelton told the Kansan that late last week, the EDC learned that Harvey County was one of several that have made it through the initial cut with the Department of Agriculture.

Now, things are in Tyson's court — and Shelton isn't even sure any location in Kansas is in the running for the facility or not.  

"We are not even positive that Kansas is still in the running, but we do have our hat in the ring," Shelton said. 

If Tyson considers a plant in Harvey County, there will be public meetings before any final decision is made. 

"We will have to work with the city to see where people stand on this," Shelton said. "... There is so much from Tonganoxie that is misinformation, because they were so against it."