Prestage Farms’ commitment to Iowa for the location of a new pork processing plant took a big step forward Tuesday morning as the Wright County Board of Supervisors took initial steps to work with Prestage Farms.
Ron Prestage, president of Prestage Farms, says he is confident that these plans to locate the state-of-the-art plant will proceed successfully, unlike an earlier attempt to build the plant within the city limits of Mason City. Mason City missed its chance to boost its economy and add 1,000 jobs when the City Council failed to pass the development agreement with Prestage Farms and its subsidiary, Prestage Foods of Iowa. A final 3-3 vote by the Mason City City Council determined the plant would not be built in the community.
Prestage’s confidence this time around stems from the fact that the Wright County proposal would place the plant in a rural setting, with the nearest town being Eagle Grove, with a population of about 3,500. Conversely, the previous called for the plant to be located within the city limits of Mason City, with a population of about 29,000.
“We are investing in Iowa and specifically Wright County because we believe this plant is good for Iowa, good for agriculture and a good step forward for our family owned and run business,” Prestage says in a press release. “Iowa is the nation’s leading pork producing state and currently produces more pigs than it can process. This plant will keep the value from processing pigs in this state.”
The plant will be a $43 million boost to the payroll in Wright County, located in north central Iowa, and will have economic benefits to the surrounding counties as well. More than 900 new full-time jobs will be created with the lowest paid workers beginning at more than $37,000 per year plus full benefits. Average wages at the plant are expected to be more than $47,000, the press release went on to say.
The plant proposal is set to be the subject of a July 25 public hearing by the Wright County Supervisors, with a decision set to come in early August.
Though Prestage saw how the wheels fell off the Mason City plan, Prestage is “encouraged by the belief of a good fit here” in Wright County. He feels that Wright County is more understanding and accepting of agriculture, and the industry that goes with it. Just as Prestage learned some lessons about the siting process from the Mason City ordeal, so did other Iowa communities watching from a distance how the plan unraveled. “We all learned a lot about the process,” Prestage says.
“We are excited to have Prestage Foods of Iowa construct their first pork processing plant in Wright County,” Bryce Davis, Wright County Economic Development director, says in the press release. “Agriculture is important to this county and to our state and we welcome the more than 900 new jobs and $240 million investment in this area. After discussions with the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the Wright County Board of Supervisors, local business owners, community organizations, regional partners, schools and healthcare providers, we believe the plant will be an extremely positive addition to our community.”
Prestage Farms has been raising pigs in Iowa for more than a decade and today is located in 30 Iowa counties. The company plans to buy 40% of the hogs for the plant from independent farmers, creating a new market option for those farmers.
Construction is set to begin this fall, pending finalization of county and state approvals, with completion and first shift operations beginning in mid-2018. Initially operating one shift, the plant will employ more than 900 people with a total capital investment of more than $240 million.