by Whitney Flach
Recently, The Wright County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Prestage Foods of Iowa to build a pork processing plant near Eagle Grove.
90 people packed into a Wright County courtroom. The meeting involved a two-hour public hearing on a proposed development agreement. The agreement, calls for construction to be completed by March 31, 2019, with the plant employing 922 full-time workers by Jan. 1, 2020. According to the agreement, a second phase would add at least 850 additional full-time jobs. The agreement also stipulates, in order to be eligible for incentives the company must then employ at least 1,772 full-time workers through Dec. 30, 2030.
Prestage officials previously said that the average annual pay is expected to be more than $47,000. The lowest-paid workers will begin at more than $37,000 annually plus benefits. If employment stipulations are met, the agreement says, Wright County will give 10 years of annual tax rebates to Prestage, not to exceed $8 million. No taxpayer money is involved, according to Wright County Economic Development Director Bryce Davis, since the rebates will be from taxes Prestage will pay.
The county will also resurface and improve portions of roads near the site, Highway 17 and County Road C-56, at its expense. The agreement indicates the county plans to apply for state funding for the road projects. Almost 50 individuals spoke in favor of the proposed project. Two-thirds of the Wright County speakers were in favor of the plant, saying they were excited about the growth opportunity. A few were undecided and requested more information. Franklin County Supervisor Michael Nolte said, “No matter what you do, some people will be upset.”
Prestage representatives answered questions and addressed rumors. Jere Null, Prestage Chief Operating Officer repeatedly referred to what he called misconceptions and misinformation on the internet while answering questions. Null said, “I understand the concerns.”
Phyllis Willis of Fertile had spoken against a proposal to locate the plant in Mason City for many reasons, always saying how much she cared for the quality of life for the pigs.
“If Wright County wants it, and they seem to, then I’m OK with it, but I’m sad,” Willis said.