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Wright County commits to Prestage

By Staff | Aug 25, 2016

A sign reading “P— Right for Wright County,” is posted near the site for the Prestage pork processing plant, which is five miles south of Eagle Grove. The location pictured is on the northwest side of the intersection of Wright County Road C56 and Iowa Highway 17.

By CHAD THOMPSON

cthompson@messengernews.net

CLARION – Wright County Supervisors have entered a deal with Prestage Foods of Iowa LLC that will allow the company to build its multimillion dollar pork processing plant on a 150 plus-acre stretch of land five miles south of Eagle Grove.

The Board of Supervisors approved a resolution entering the development agreement with Prestage at a meeting Monday morning.

About 80 people attended.

Prestage will now look to obtain clean air and well permits from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to make the $240 million plant a reality.

Wright County was one of 19 communities in Iowa that were interested in housing the 675,000-square-foot facility.

Supervisors also approved the final reading on ordinance No. 52 – an ordinance that allows the county to make infrastructure improvements.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Wright County,” said Stan Watne, chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

The development agreement includes a minimum $200 million investment by Prestage and the creation of 922 full-time jobs. Those jobs have to be maintained.

Prestage’s taxes would be prorated if the company fails to maintain those jobs, according to Bryce Davis, Wright County Economic Development director.

The lowest paid workers will start at $13 per hour, while the average wage will be $15.71 per hour. Average annual wages at the plant are projected to be $47,000.

The county has also agreed to make road improvements to Iowa Highway 17 and Wright County Road C56, which is commonly called the Vincent blacktop, provide a wastewater treatment plant, and provide incremental property tax payments.

Under the agreement, the county is also protected from abandonment.

For example, if the property is abandoned for five years or more, the county can order the structure to be torn down and restored to an all natural state at the expense of Prestage.

“I feel this is a very fair deal for Wright County and I am happy our elected officials understood the economic benefits this project will bring,” Davis said.

Also included in the agreement is a minimum assessment value of $111,111,110.

The minimum taxable value of the property is to be $100 million.

“The only way a county can grow is if the tax base grows,” Watne said. “If we don’t have that we continue to shrink.”

The full 58-page document of the agreement between the county and Prestage can be accessed on the Wright County website.

Prestage will fund the project with a $240 million loan through Wells Fargo at a 5 percent interest rate, according to the project report filed with the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

“They have the ability to get 100 percent of the loan because of their financial standing as a company,” Davis said.

Scott J. Prestage, vice president of the company’s turkey division, said he is thankful for the local support.

“We realize this is a controversial business,” Prestage said, “but we are focused on being good neighbors and good corporate citizens.”

Prestage said the deal makes sense for the company and Iowa.

“We are very optimistic about being here and this becoming a big part of our future,” he said. “This is the biggest risk we have ever undertaken as a company, but it’s a well thought out risk. We think that this is where we need to be.”

Wright County’s agreement with Prestage hasn’t deterred its opponents.

“I’m not done fighting for clean air, clean water, strong communities, and for the independent family farmer,” said Kathy Schnell, of Belmond, in a written statement.

“The supervisors make me want to fight harder than ever to stop the expansion of corporate ag in our state,” added Shnell, a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

Erica Blair, a Humboldt native now of Des Moines who is also a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, said Iowa can do better than Prestage.

“We’re not against agriculture – we’re against corporate ag’s system that traps farmers in a cycle of debt,” she said in a press release. “We’re against agribusiness that puts their private profits above our communities and above our environment. It’s time for big corporations like Prestage, Iowa Select, Monsanto and others to get out of Iowa.”

The Iowa Soybean Association is on board with the county’s decision to welcome Prestage.

“The unanimous approval today by the Wright County Board of Supervisors of a new Prestage Foods of Iowa pork processing facility is the kind of bread-and-butter economic development that has defined Iowa’s leadership in food production for generations,” said Wayne Fredericks, Iowa Soybean Association president, in a written statement.

“As a grassroots organization led by farmers whose families have put down deep roots over many generations, we understand the unique role Iowa plays in growing food,” Fredericks added. “And it stands to reason, given that more than 85 percent of our state’s land area is devoted to farming, the highest percentage in the nation. We’re also home to a significant share of the world’s most productive farm ground. With these resources comes a tremendous obligation to use them productively and sustainably.”

Spring 2017 is the earliest that construction on the Prestage site would begin, according to Davis. Construction would then be anticipated to conclude in 2018.

“Now we have two years to prepare and manage growth,” Davis said. “We have other businesses we are working with right now to get them developed.”

Davis said the new plant will spur development of other businesses both related and unrelated to Prestage.

Prestage plans to provide breakfast and lunch to their employees inside the plant through an independent catering service, Davis said.

The catering company is not related to the 922 jobs the company will maintain, according to Davis.

“We are anticipating some jobs to be created through that,” he said.

Davis also said the trucking industry will see a boost.

“Refrigerated trucking, truck maintenance and repair, truck washes and truck stops will be springing up in the region or be expanded,” he said.

An extensive laundry service would also be required.

“Those uniforms and those coats will need to be cleaned every day,” Davis said. “Close to a thousand people wearing those articles of clothing, they are going to need to be washed. We will see some increase in services that are already in the region.”

Prestage said the company is always looking for ways to improve

“We are committed to being environmentally responsible,” Prestage said. “We are committed to a good safe, work place. We are committed to taking care of our animals. These are issues that important in society.

“As time goes on we are going to look for better ways to do business. You have to be efficient and competitive in this business. We have to be acutely aware of what our costs are. With that being said, we are always looking for a better way. We are committed to looking to the future and taking advantage of new innovations as long as they make sense for us. That’s how we have grown our business.”

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