In 2005, Tyson Deli in Cherokee had started its smokehouse expansion project on the east side of the plant. The project accommodated six new Alkar Smokehouses and Chillers.
The smokehouses were up and running in 2007 but there still was part of that side of the plant that went undeveloped. Previously, that area of the plant was home to the Pressed Ham Departments. Pre-formed Hams were made, cooked, taken out of molds, re-cooked and packaged in this area of the plant. According to Plant Manager, Jerry Menke, this section is being remodeled with a $5 million dollar upgrade. It will house four new slicing lines and will be able to slice and package various types of deli-meats.
"We're running out of room in the Slicing Room," said Menke. With the new lines added it would bring an estimated 20 million pounds of additional business through Cherokee. "We're basically continuing the project that was started in 2005," said Menke.
It was estimated by management that each line would have around 10 employees, either working on the line itself or being part of a supporting job such as in sanitation, smokehouse, packaging and load-out, and maintenance.
It is estimated that if the new lines run two shifts a day that it would bring approximately 80 new jobs to the plant. 'We do expect the need to hire people" commented Menke.
Part of the upgrade is the remodeling of the old area such as demolition, construction, electrical and plumbing work. "We try to get qualified contractors locally whenever possible, to keep the work here in Cherokee," explained Menke.
"We are very fortunate that we're in an environment that the company wants to invest in Cherokee's future," Menke added.
This new remodeling is not the first out at the Tyson plant. A major remodel was completed in 1986, the Pork Cure Department added cooked hams facilities and also added two more smokehouses.
The Sausage Department was remodeled to update the machinery and install in the smokehouse.
In 1988, the plant underwent extensive remodeling as it phased out the retail portion of the business and expanded the Food Service and Deli portion.
In 1989, work began to renovate the existing Hog Kill and Hog Cooler space to install the Deli Sausage and Sausage Specialty operations. More remodeling was completed to the Canadian Bacon area that added a continuous smokehouse in December of 1995.
In 2000, there were many changes to the plant. A new Central Grind area was added which is home to Tenderizing and Beef. The Sausage Specialty Department has been remodeled to make room for additional lines.
The largest area houses Sausage South with an Alkar J-hook Smokehouse. This addition also included new locker rooms and a cafeteria on the second floor level.
A new maintenance shop and Quality Assurance labs were built on the first floor of this addition. Health Services, Employment and a Safety Training Room are also located