Economic Development

Don’t Want TJX? How about a Chicken Farm?

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – Harvey Lutz put up stakes Monday to outline the dimensions of the two 650-foot chicken barns he plans to build on the 121 acres he optioned to TJX Companies, spread chicken manure on the land closest to the houses on the opposite side of Hallock Young Road and left a big pile of chicken manure as a calling card.

“We gave them a little taste of what it’s going to smell like,” he says with a smile. “They have Choice A or Choice B,” the TJX HomeGoods distribution center or a chicken farm.

Lutz is the third-generation owner of the 100-year-old Lutz Farms at 2688 S. Leavitt Road in Warren Township. He grows soybeans and corn on the 121 acres he owns in Lordstown, which is the second largest parcel compiled by TJX for its $160 million distribution center that would employ 1,000. The land is zoned residential/agriculture – so unlike TJX, Lutz doesn’t need to go before the zoning board — or homeowners across the road — for permission to build his business.

And staking out the land for a chicken farm is no stunt, he insists.

“It’s a for-real thing,” he says. “But the land is still for sale to TJX if they want to come back to Lordstown.”

When he was first contacted about a year ago by the Regional Chamber and learned of TJX’s plans, Lutz says he told development officials they were wasting their time.

“There have been other companies interested in building here but they all got shot down,” he says.

“They want agriculture on this land, and that’s what I plan on doing if TJX doesn’t buy it. I hope they [his neighbors and TJX opponents] are happy with what they choose.”

Village Councilwoman Karen Jones, an opponent of TJX rezoning residential/agriculture land to accommodate its distribution center, says she has “no problem” with Lutz building a chicken farm. “We have neighbors who have chickens. So I don’t think there will be a problem at all.”

But in Lutz’s case, his chickens will number 110,000 – 55,000 in each of the two barns he plans to build.

“They turn over every 39 days – that is high turnover,” he says.

The operation will need a building to house the generators, a manure storage building and a big parking lot for the semis that will transport the chickens for processing. “They will come in the middle of the night and haul the chickens out,” Lutz says.

Were TJX to build on his land – and as of this posting the company says it’s looking elsewhere given opponents determination to delay rezoning the land industrial until a referendum can be held in November – there would be landscaped buffers, walking trails and even a pond. Lutz’s chicken farm would have no obligation to buffer anything.

“Had you come here Monday,” when he spread the chicken manure, “you wouldn’t want to be here,” Lutz says. “I gave them a taste of the smell so they know what’s coming.”

Like TJX, Lutz says he wants to use his land to expand his business and its profitability. Farming has become less lucrative “or I wouldn’t have agreed to sell to TJX” at a price he describes as competitive (and cannot specify under a nondisclosure agreement).

“Our profit line is getting less and less every year. We’re trying to diversify, trying to make a living,” he says.

“We’ve been talking about this [chicken farm] for about a year and a half. I spend about $93,000 a year in fertilizer that’s manufactured. If I use the chicken litter produced at these barns, that will basically cover my fertilizer program. So it’s a win-win for me. In the economics of the world of farming, it’s a great thing. We’re going to be producing and diversifying what we do. And it’s more of an organic state. All of our soybeans are used for tofu. So this litter is actually playing hand in hand with tofu.”

Still, Lutz knows by putting up stakes on his land, spreading chicken manure and leaving a big mound as a reminder, “I got their attention. It’s sad,” he says.

“These people [the TJX opponents] have no respect and I have no more respect [for them] either. There’s so much going on behind the scenes, Facebook and all this garbage. They don’t play well.”

Jones, the councilwoman, disagrees.

In a letter to The Business Journal responding to an editorial titled “Shout Down the Naysayers,” she takes issue with reporting “there is opposition to this project. That is absolutely NOT TRUE. The only opposition that some council members and residents have is with rezoning residential property to industrial where there is ample industrially zoned property available for this project.”

Jones says she will be out of town Sunday and unable to show her support for TJX at the rally planned for 1 p.m. at the Lordstown Schools Track Complex.

Lutz says he will attend the rally.

“It’s sad. There is a small group of people who fight power plants – they fight everything,” he says.

“They just don’t get it.”

Pictured at top: Harvey Lutz stakes out his land to show where he will build chicken barns.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.