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 that were up and running in 2007. Last year, the company finished phase two of that expansion project with the addition of four new slicing lines and a spiral ham line.
The new lines were in operation by July and with the result of those new lines Tyson added an estimated 225 jobs last year.
The new slicing lines are housed in an area of the plant that was previously 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 was remodeled with a $5 million dollar upgrade. The new slicing lines are able to slice and package various types of deli-meats.
Currently, Tyson has the west side of the plant devoted to slicing products and specialty meats, and a bulk hot dog line.
"We are very fortunate that we're in an environment that the company wants to invest in Cherokee's future," Menke added. "I'm glad we're growing and the plant is full and is utilized. We forget that we are growing when so many other are closing," said Menke
Menke also estimates that in the near future the company will still be hiring 75 to 100 more people due to retirements, turnover and increases in business.
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 installed 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 in this area.
As for the future, Tyson is working on a new Turkey Bacon project and plant officials estimate that it would bring in about three million pounds per year of product.
Plus, the plant has an all-natural ham product that Tyson has been working on for the last five years and getting that perfected - both signs of things to come out of Tyson in 2010.