By Whitney Flach
On September 27, 2014 Tyson Foods meat-processing plant closed down in Cherokee, Iowa. Almost two years later, leaders in the northwest Iowa town are wanting to see another company make use of the former building just outside of town. The community say’s that the food company is making it hard to find a new tenant.
According to the Des Moines Register, Tyson has continued to pay $130,000 annually in rent on the building and holds a clause in the lease allowing it to refuse bids from competitors. Tyson spokeswoman Caroline Ahn said the company has been in talks with three food companies about the plant. Those deals fell apart, but she said it was not because of competitive concerns. Ahn said in a statement. “To date, we have not received a fair offer to take over the lease or purchase the assets that were in the facility.”
Cherokee City Councilman Chad Brown, said it seems as if Tyson is holding the town hostage. “We want to fill that building, and we want to use the resources that we have out there,” Brown said. According to city officials, there have been several companies who have expressed interest in the facility, but Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson’s restrictions have made it more difficult to find a new tenant.
There are several other processing plants in the region that Tyson operates. The company employs 1,150 workers at a hog-processing plant in Perry, more than 1,500 at pork and turkey plants in Storm Lake, and more than 4,000 in Dakota City, Nebraska. Local officials are wondering if Tyson’s opposition to a new company in Cherokee has to do with limiting competition for workers. City Administrator Sam Kooiker said, “It appears they’re making their decision based on concerns about the labor pool. That means they’re intentionally working to keep wages low.” New York real estate investor Mark Langfan’s family owns the building. Langfan said he can’t force Tyson to relinquish control of the site as long as it continues paying rent and keeping up on maintenance and upkeep of the plant. He said, “The issue is corporate responsibility when they leave a community. I just don’t understand how a company in America could take the kind of roughshod position that they’re taking here.”
Tyson’s lease extends to 2020. They assured that they will continue to work on marketing the plant. Ahn explains, “We share the community’s interest in finding another business to use the plant.”