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Officials study Morrell plant purchase

By Staff | Feb 9, 2010

DES MOINES (AP) – State and local officials are discussing options for buying a Sioux City meatpacking plant that’s closing this spring.

John Frew, Gov. Chet Culver’s chief of staff, says Sioux City lawmakers have approached him about options for buying the 51-year-old John Morrell & Co. plant so the building can be torn down and the area redeveloped.

Frew told The Associated Press on Thursday there are a variety of ways the state or local governments could buy the plant, but it’s too early to specify those options.

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey says state government should be cautious about getting involved.

Northey, speaking Friday during a taping of Iowa Public Television’s ”Iowa Press” program, warned against state involvement, saying the plant’s future is best left to the private sector.

At the same time, he says he’s willing to explore possible incentives or other steps that could help the meatpacking industry in that part of the state.

Officials at John Morrell, a subsidiary of Smithfield, Va.-based Smithfield Foods Inc., announced last week they would close the pork processing plant, costing 1,450 jobs.

A Smithfield spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a telephone call and e-mail seeking comment.

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