WATERTOWN — A Georgia-based poultry breeding company is looking at building and operating an egg hatchery facility in the agri-biz park on Route 3 in the town of Watertown.
CWT Farms International, a 62-year-old company with facilities in Ohio, and several southern states, is talking to Jefferson County economic development officials about building a 28,000-square-foot egg hatchery in the Thousand Islands International Agriculture and Business Park, located near the BOCES complex.
The $10 million to $12 million facility would create 20 jobs and be built on vacant land between the Cazenovia Equipment Company and the Eagle Beverage distribution center, the two first tenants of the ag-biz park, owned by developer Michael E. Lundy.
Chicks would be hatched at the facility and then primarily head off to Canada for the broiler chicken market before ending up as rotisserie chickens, the kinds that are sold at grocery stores, said Jay M. Matteson, agricultural coordinator for the Jefferson County Economic Development Agency.
If the project moves forward, the facility would join Aviagen North America, which operates an egg hatchery about a mile away in the Jefferson County Corporate Park off outer Coffeen Street.
“Jefferson County would be the largest egg hatchery producer in the state,” he said.
The company also is considering two other possible sites, an existing facility it owns in Ohio and another in Pennsylvania, he said.
“They wouldn’t be considering here if it wasn’t for the ag-park,” Mr. Matteson said.
He also thinks the county can offer a better deal than what the company can receive from the other two perspective sites.
Mr. Matteson said “it’s very important” that the company would be in operation by next summer. To speed up the process and save on costs, steel from a building that Mr. Lundy acquired from a local demolished building would be used to construct the hatchery.
The project came up during Thursday morning’s Jefferson County Local Development Corporation meeting.
“I cant say it’s a definite, but it would have a strong ripple effect,” Mr. Matteson said, adding the local market and trucking companies would benefit from the hatchery operating here.
The hatching eggs would start at the company’s laying operations in the south, be placed in specially designed boxes and delivered by refrigerated tractor trailers here within 24 hours.
After arriving here, the hatching eggs would be put in incubator rooms at the Watertown facility. Computers would simulate the butt end of a chicken and keep track of the temperature, air quality, humidity and amount of light in the incubator room.
“The computers would rotate the egg just like a hen chicken,” Mr. Matteson said.
They would sit in trays in those incubator rooms for 18 days before the computer scans the egg to determine whether they’re “a viable chick,” he said. From there, they’d be placed in a hatching room for three days and workers inspect the wings to determine the sex of the chick.
If it’s a male, the chick would be placed in a blue tray and if it’s a female, it would go into a pink tray.
Within 24 hours, the chicks would then be on their way to Canada and become rotisserie chickens between seven and 12 weeks later.
Mr. Matteson hopes to hear from the company in October or November whether it selects the ag-biz park site.
The local development corporation board expressed excitement about the prospects of landing the facility in the ag-biz park.
“This begs the question of which came first: the chicken or the egg,” board member Paul Warneck joked.
“Well, this answers it,” said fellow board treasurer Robert Aliasso responded. “The chicken.”
After meeting with company officials earlier in the week, David J. Zembiec, chief executive officer of Jefferson County Economic Development, said CWT is also working on the agency’s application process. They talked about a tax abatement program and other economic development incentives that could be offered.
County economic development officials found out about the prospect through Jeffrey Pierce, CWT’s vice president of marketing and strategic alliances, the same executive who was involved in developing the existing hatchery in 2008, when it was owned by Morris Northstar Hatchery before it was acquired by Aviagen in 2015, Mr. Matteson said.
Aviagen is owned by the same German parent company as CWT.