In this month’s Investor Focus, Team Pennsylvania would like to showcase our investor Bell & Evans. Scott Sechler, President & CEO of Bell & Evans, has been a Board Director on Team Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors since June 2016, bringing his extensive knowledge of poultry and agriculture, and how Pennsylvania fits in. Enjoy learning about the rich history of Bell & Evans, what the business climate in Pennsylvania offers, as well as what’s in Bell & Evans’ future in PA.
Can you give us a brief history of Bell & Evans and its beginnings in Pennsylvania?
Bell & Evans chicken has been produced in Pennsylvania since the 1950s, but the premium brand dates back to the late 1800s with founders Howard H. Bell and Carlton Evans of New Jersey. Even in its earliest days, Bell & Evans prioritized quality over low-price and gained a reputation as the best chicken in the market. By the 1950s, demand was so great that Bell & Evans partnered with Farmer’s Pride, Inc. in Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania, to private label its chicken following the same high-quality standards.
Scott Sechler grew up on a farm in Strausstown, PA, and began raising, selling and transporting chickens at a very young age. At age 24, in 1984, Scott purchased Farmer’s Pride, Inc. and immediately began improving chicken houses and processes. Two years later, the Bell family approached Scott to purchase Bell & Evans.
The Bell & Evans brand you know today has been largely shaped by Scott Sechler’s influences and innovations to develop the most humane animal welfare standards and produce the most all natural, superior quality chicken.
What does the business climate in Pennsylvania offer Bell & Evans?
Pennsylvania is a great geographical location for business, having easy highway access to major metropolitan areas up and down the east coast. Pennsylvania agriculture is very diverse, and chicken houses fit nicely into the diversification of farms, as they are easier to manage and less time consuming than many other farming practices. Our local and state officials have been very supportive of our business endeavors, so the overall climate in Pennsylvania suits us really well. We believe in keeping 100% of our operations close to home where we have better control and transparency, so Pennsylvania is where we plan to stay.
Are there any new business developments or projects that are supported by Pennsylvania’s robust business network?
Bell & Evans is currently amid construction of a new $330 million, 411,500 sq. ft. Organic-Certified Chicken Harvesting Facility. Additionally, we are building a new wastewater treatment plant to support the build and expanding our hatching operations with the world’s first organic certified, animal-welfare-focused Chicken Hatchery.
In 2018, the DCED and Governor’s Action Team approved Bell & Evans for a $2 million Pennsylvania First grant with $2,138,000 in Job Creation Tax Credits to be distributed upon creation of new jobs and $421,650 in funding for job training through the WEDnet PA program. That same year, the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority approved Bell & Evans for an $11 million loan through Pennvest to assist with the costs of the wastewater treatment facility.
Are there any priorities that Bell & Evans focuses on with regard to community outreach or philanthropic giving?
Bell & Evans is a big supporter of Pennsylvania’s youth in agriculture. We spend tens of thousands of dollars every year on purchasing project animals from FFA and 4-H youth. Bell & Evans is also a major exhibitor at the Pennsylvania Farm Show where we educate visitors on our innovative animal welfare and chick hatching practices. We also donate a significant amount of chicken product to be sold by PennAg Industries at the Farm Show, their largest fundraiser of the year.
Bell & Evans has also raised more than $2 million for cancer care services in Lebanon County, partially funding the WellSpan Sechler Family Cancer Center. The Center offers comprehensive, integrated care to patients in our community including chemotherapy, infusion therapy, radiation treatment, physician offices, a pharmacy, a spiritual center, social workers and dietitians.
In 2020, the Sechler family established the Sechler Family Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that exists to raise money in support of local public services, community projects and youth agricultural education to benefit our team members, farmers and their families in the communities where we live and work. The Foundation’s vision is businesses taking care of the communities that provide for them.
Why does Bell & Evans invest in Team Pennsylvania?
It is important for agriculture to have a seat at the table, not only through the Secretary of Agriculture but directly from a Pennsylvania producer.
Team Pennsylvania would like to thank Bell & Evans for continuing to invest in Pennsylvania’s economic competitiveness. We are grateful to have such engaging, caring and diverse investors. To learn more about Team Pennsylvania, or our investors, click on the “News” tab at the top of our website.