Opinion Piece – Hog Processing Plant Could Be A Win-Win For Community
By Greg Madson
Several valley residents have spoken up, written letters, visited with council members or just vented about the possibility of a hog processing plant moving into the old La-Z-Boy facility in Tremonton. This has been dubbed “Project SAM.”
There have been several questions raised about “this type of business” coming into the valley as well as “the type of worker” it will bring here. There have also been several comments made about the smell of this type of plant and the traffic that will come with it.
I have been asked, as publisher of the Leader, what my opinion is. It is hard to separate the two – newspaper guy versus concerned citizen. So I will just share my thoughts.
The company that is looking at coming in fits our DNA. We are an agricultural community. We are not a Silicon Valley. As much as we would love to have Adobe, Microsoft, Toyota or any other tech company come in, it’s probably not going to happen. Especially in that antiquated, outdated building.
According to councilman Lyle Holmgren and county commissioner Stan Summers, there have been dozens of businesses who have looked at or expressed some interest in the plant. This is the FIRST one who has gone to the level of a buy proposal.
Now, do you take the first offer out there? Back in 2008, maybe not. But after several years of looking at that dinosaur that has turned into an eyesore, the thought that a company who values its community as much as this company apparently does, gets me behind the project.
Production technology has changed greatly in the past few years. As you know, Box Elder County is under a non-attainment status because of the PM2.5 issue. This comes from auto exhaust, farm dust, methane gas (animals) as well as smoke from burger joints. Today, a new burger joint such as Burger King, Crown or Jim’s has more regulations on them than they did 10 years ago when it comes to releasing what goes into our air. The same is true of a processing plant.
Gone are the days of EA Miller of the early 1980s. In addition, as I understand, there is not a proposal for a rendering plant. Understand the difference between a processing plant and a rendering plant. The hogs will be processed at the plant (butchered) and the by-products will be processed elsewhere. Will there be a smell? Yes, of course there will. Will it be disgusting like that of the Miller rendering plant in Hyrum? All indications say no.
Increase in traffic in that area. Apparently some of the people who have talked to me forgot that La-Z-Boy employed over 600 people and had semi-trucks coming in and out all day. That is what the facility, and the area of the town, were designed for. It’s in an industrial park. Mitch Zundel, Box Elder county economic development director, compared the smell of the company’s plant in California to the smells you get at the county fair.
If you built by the industrial park you knew what you were getting, or potentially getting, in to. I live by the Malad River. I knew it was a smelly river. During the summer it gets pretty bad, but I don’t complain because I chose to live there.
Do we want that type of business here? Do we want that type of worker here? What type of business and workers are people insinuating this is or will bring here? Will they hire illegal immigrants and bring in “riff-raff,” as I was told by someone? No. The company involved cannot afford to skirt the law and hire workers who are not able to work in the U.S. legally. We have three other production facilities in our area: MOM Brands, West Liberty Foods and Procter and Gamble. They employ a capable, intelligent workforce. People who have been talking to me seem to be characterizing those who work at a hog/beef processing plant in a negative way. Are the workers at MOM, WLF and P&G “riff-raff?” Not at all. The company looking at coming in will surely be offering wages competitive to these other plants and attract similar, high caliber workers.
This will devalue our homes. I don’t know about you, but my home value can’t go any lower, can it? Since my family moved into our home in August 2008, the value has dropped 20 percent during this economic downturn.
You are telling me that a company that wants to move here and hire between 100-300 people will further devalue my home? This is a company with a proven track record of donating thousands and thousands of dollars back to the community and it will devalue my home? I can’t believe that’s true.
Economic recovery? As many of you know personally and through acquaintances, lay offs at ATK as well as the La-Z-Boy shutdown crippled this community. We are now on 5 years of downturn. Is there a rainbow in sight? There may be with Project SAM.
Impact to the sewer plant? There will most assuredly be an impact on the city’s sewer plant because Project SAM would product waste similar to WLF and MOM. This would be an issue the city, under the direction of public works director Paul Fulgham, will have to address. If the impact is insurmountable, the city will have to reconsider or make plans to increase/improve the facility. Those funds could possibly be recovered from assistance from the company by way of impact fees. Also, the business will be required to pre-treat its waste, like WLF does.
Fulgham told me the city has a capacity of 1.92 million gallons per day at its waste treatment facility. Currently, on average, they are processing 1.3-1.4 million gallons a day. He said, “Our infrastructure can handle the growth” with this new plant.
New construction on the La-Z-Boy building. If Project SAM goes through there will be a huge economic impact felt just on the remodeling of the building alone. How many millions of dollars will go into that project? I have been told it will be in excess of $10 million. Imagine the impact that will have on our community. Then, finally, when the business is up and running, further positive impact will be felt throughout the area.
That means we will sell more cars, more boats, more gas, more tires, more groceries, more furniture, more clothes and, yes, maybe more newspapers.
I don’t see how this can be a loss for the community. I am extremely disappointed in some members of our city council who don’t appear to have done their due diligence when researching this business.
My question simply is this for those who scoff at this company and project: Have you ever been unemployed or under employed? Have you ever had money worries? If so, you would get behind this project.
I encourage all residents to attend the city council meeting on Tuesday, March 5 at Tremonton City chambers. The meeting will start at 7 p.m. but you may want to get there early.
Note from Lyle Holmgren: The Box Elder County Economic Alliance also contains a write-up about the visit the local group went on. Go to the following link and scroll down to Mitch Zundel’s write-up http://www.boxeldereda.org/news.html