Vital Signs

The Trojan Chicken

Albany, Kentucky, has a stay of execution for at least a little longer. But more than a few townspeople are preparing to mourn her passing—and leave before the funeral.

Albany is a town of 2,000 in the rolling limestone hills of southern Kentucky, just north of the Tennessee line. Founded in the early 1820's, it is an all-American, old-stock community. Like many such communities in the South and the Heartland, its agriculture-based economy is not providing the jobs necessary to keep young people at home. So, like so many of these other communities, Albany has advertised for industry to come to town. To make the offer attractive, it held out the usual tax incentives. One in particular was an "Empowerment Zone," a federal program pushed by the Clinton administration to promote rural development.

Seeing a good deal, the Cagle's poultry processing company made a bid to build a plant, but the deal offered Albany more than it ever bargained for. In the words of Don Corleone, it was an offer Albany couldn't refuse. The town's political establishment wanted it, and that was that—despite the sentiments of many average citizens.

The deal proposed to bring 1,600 jobs to town. The trouble is that the local unemployment rate is only 350 or so. Where would the rest of the workers come from? Given the recent history of Cagle's and other poultry processors, the answer most likely is...

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