The food company Pilgrim’s announced plans last week to invest $1.6 million in Alabama to help local communities respond to the coronavirus crisis as well as to invest in the future.
The investment is part of a new, national $20 million initiative called Hometown Strong that adds to commitments Pilgrim’s has made this year to protect employees and ensure their job security amid the global pandemic.
“It is because of the great work being done in our hometowns that Pilgrim’s is able to provide high-quality chicken to families across our country,” said Fabio Sandri, the interim president and CEO of Pilgrim’s. “Through this initiative, we’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with local leaders and our team members to determine how best to make meaningful and lasting impacts in our communities.”
Pilgrim’s plans to partner with local officials and community leaders in Enterprise, Guntersville and Russellville to identify investment projects that strengthen these hometowns where the company’s team members live and work.
“There is no doubt that COVID-19 has taken a toll on Alabamians, but because of strong partners like Pilgrim’s, we are bringing much-needed relief to communities around our state,” said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. “The Pilgrim’s Hometown Strong initiative is not only helping local communities respond to the ongoing pandemic, but it is also positioning us for a strong comeback and future. I am grateful for Alabama’s collaboration on this initiative and for the strong partner we have in Pilgrim’s. We will overcome this together.”
Economic developer Nicole Jones said, “Pilgrim’s, a dominant employer in Alabama, has showcased their belief in community with a generous investment in Enterprise, Guntersville, and Russellville, local areas in which their employees live and work. Russellville’s project, for example, includes a community splash pad that will be the largest in the state of Alabama, able accommodate 175 children at one time. The $1.6 million quality of life initiative will provide much-needed strength and relief during an unprecedented time in history.”
“Pilgrim’s level of corporate social responsibility is profound and coincides with the company’s vision to create opportunities for a better future for team members,” Jones added. “We are thankful for Pilgrim’s presence in our state.”
Pilgrim’s has a strong presence in the state of Alabama, employing more than 3,200 people and paying family farmers nearly $89 million each year to support the area facilities. Pilgrim’s is an important contributor to the Alabama economy, Pilgrim’s has an annual payroll in Alabama of more than $113 million and has contributed more than $146 million in capital investments over the last five years.
Nationally, the $20 million investment from Pilgrim’s, as part of the $50 million nationwide contributions from JBS USA. The program will include donations to alleviate food insecurity, strengthen long-term community infrastructure and well-being, and support COVID-19 emergency response and relief efforts.
All funds will be committed by the end of the year.
Pilgrim’s anchors dozens of rural communities. The company operates more than 30 meat poultry and prepared foods plants employing 31,000-plus people. During the pandemic, Pilgrim’s has invested more than $65 million to enhance safeguards for team members and to reward them with thank-you bonuses.
This includes hiring new team members to conduct additional, around-the-clock sanitation and cleaning services, and to provide education, training and enforcement of COVID-19 preventive measures.
Some chicken processing and meatpacking plants had issues with COVID-19 spread.
JBS USA Holdings Inc., which owns Pilgrim’s, is an American food processing company and a wholly-owned subsidiary of JBS S.A., a Brazilian company that is the world’s largest processor of fresh beef and pork.
JBS USA has more than $50 billion in annual sales as of 2017. Its headquarters is in Greeley, Colorado. JBS entered the U.S. market in a big way when it purchased Swift in 2007. Swift is one of the original big four meatpackers and was founded by Gustavus Franklin Swift in 1885 in Chicago.