In an effort to convince a company not to locate a chicken processing plant in the southern end of the county, Nash County residents have hired a Raleigh-based public relations firm to develop a campaign to help them achieve their goal. The firm, Campaign Connections, has handled political and corporate campaigns throughout the state before and has been hired with the financial assistance of the city of Wilson.
The residents have formed the the Nash County Landowners Association, with Con Ward as chairman, to convince county officials and Sanderson Farms to alter their plans of building a proposed chicken processing plant at the southeast quadrant of N.C. 97 and Interstate 95. Although the Nash County Board of Commissioners approved of a rezoning of the property that would allow the plant to be built there in the past, following Sanderson Farms promises of 1,100 new jobs, residents in Southern Nash County and Wilson County, as well as city officials in Wilson, have raised concerns about the proposal. They have also sued Nash County, claiming the rezoning process was flawed.
Along with the legal fight, residents plan on making their case known through protests and the Campaign Connections campaign, Ward said.
“What we are looking for is a way to help organize our message and organize our strategy,” Ward said.
Campaign Connections was hired to clarify the reasons for the residents’ opposition to the plant, said Bert Daniels, the vice chairman of the Nash County Landowners Association.
“We would like to give more information, to give more clarity to the situation,” he said. “There is still a lot of misinformation. We don’t feel like Sanderson Farms has any true feeling for the community. We’re not against jobs, and we’re not against Sanderson Farms. This is just not a match.”
Brad Crone, president of Campaign Connections, confirmed they are helping the residents develop a campaign to get their message out.
“In this business, what we do is build narratives and tell stories,” he said. “We’re going to start this process. We’ll have a multi-front approach at the local level, in Laurel, Mississippi (Sanderson headquarters) and on Wall Street. Sanderson Farms is a publicly traded company. We’re going to hold them to the highest levels of transparency and accountability.”
The campaign developed by Campaign Connections will target the Sanderson Farms executive team, its board of directors and shareholders. The PR firm has also advised residents to buy Sanderson Farms stocks, to make sure they are heard by the board and can make their concerns known.
“We plan to use our new position as shareholders to petition the board of directors for time at the next meeting to address our concerns about this proposal,” Ward said. He added that the group also will be making a request to review the company’s files on its site-selection process.