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John Soules Foods on pace to open by July 2021

VALLEY — John Soules Foods is on pace to open a major production facility in Valley in one year.  The company lost an estimated 120 days of work due to the coronavirus pandemic but is on pace to be up and running in Valley by July 2021. Much work has gone on inside its 266,000-square-foot plant off Towel Avenue in Valley, which formerly housed a distribution center for WestPoint Stevens and on the grounds outside the plant.

The Tyler, Texas-based company initially made a $110 million commitment to locate in Valley in January 2018. That’s now up to the $140 million range, and the new plant may well be the company’s most modern and efficient plant when production starts next year. When the plant opens with two production lines, there will be more than 200 people working there. Within a few years, the company plans to expand to five lines and more than 500 employees, making it one of the largest employers in Chambers County.

The company has been hiring local contractors in the pre-opening phase. Three new buildings are going up behind the main building. Two of them are being built by Batson-Cook Construction of West Point with the third one being built by Harmon Engineering of LaFayette. One of the buildings will house a pre-treatment plant.

Brumfield Electrical & Communications (BEC) is doing the electrical work, and Mikey Givorns is hauling in the fill dirt that’s needed for the ongoing construction.

John Soules Foods produces ready-to-cook and fully cooked chicken and beef products. It’s the nation’s No. 1 producer of beef and chicken fajitas.

The company has a strong sense of social responsibility in the communities where it’s located. In May 2020, for example, John Soules Foods donated 168,00o pounds of food to charitable organizations in Montgomery County, Texas and Hall County, Georgia to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

John Soules Foods also made a donation of 20,000 pounds of food to charities in the Atlanta area, which is not far from its plant in Gainesville, Georgia. These donations in Texas and Georgia amounted to an estimated 890,000 servings.

Tony Segrest, general manager of the East Alabama Water, Sewer and Fire Protection District, said that East Alabama would be ready for phase one that will be taking place next year but will have some challenges in handling phases two and three that will lead to full production with five lines.

“We are planning for the upgrades will be needing by then,” he said.

In phase one, the new plant will be using close to 400,000 gallons of water per day. The wastewater discharges will be close to that figure.

A new lift station will be needed for phase one. It’s presently under construction near the junction of Towel Avenue and River Road.

East Alabama was accustomed to handling large discharges due to the heyday of WestPoint Stevens.

The difference with what’s coming is that most of the WPS discharges were around the clock. With John Soules Foods, 75% of the discharges will be between midnight and 6 a.m. That’s when much of the cleaning takes place.

Segrest said he had visited the company’s plant in Gainesville and had been most impressed.

“They run an extremely clean operation,” he said.

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