For years, the Tyson Foods facility in Noel, Missouri served as the economic lifeblood of the rural Ozarks community in the state’s extreme southwest corner. Located about 50 miles from the nearest large town in Arkansas, the plant served as the region’s largest employer, providing jobs to more than 1,000 local workers.
But in March, the poultry processing plant closed its doors, taking with it the hundreds of jobs it provided. It was one of several Tyson plants in the region that had closed as part of cost-cutting measures taken by the multinational corporation, and the closure reverberated through the community.
The impact of the closure, and the many similar ones occurring throughout the region, has been felt far and wide. Unemployment has skyrocketed, and many local businesses that relied on the workers at Tyson have suffered greatly as fewer customers come through their doors. And the ripple effect has been felt in dozens of other industries, from real estate to education, as people fear for their economic future.
As the dust settles from the Tyson closures, many are wondering what’s next for the region. Community leaders and business owners have come together to form the Southwest Ozarks Regional Initiative (SORI), a group dedicated to finding a way to rebuild the economy and bring new opportunities to the region. Members of SORI are examining different ways to revitalize the local economy, from creating new industries to developing future workforce training programs.
While the future of the region remains uncertain, SORI and its members remain committed to finding a way forward to create a better future for everyone in the Ozarks. With new ideas, determination, and a little bit of luck, the area may yet rise from the closure of Tyson and once again thrive.