Packing plant would have mixed effect
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 20, 2001
KENSETT – Landing a major employer and creating more than 1,000 new jobs in Worth County is an exciting prospect for economic development, said Dr.
Tuesday, March 20, 2001
KENSETT – Landing a major employer and creating more than 1,000 new jobs in Worth County is an exciting prospect for economic development, said Dr. Donald Stull, anthropology professor at the University of Kansas. But when that major employer is a beef processing plant, some changes to the community may not be positive, Stull said Saturday at a community meeting in Kensett.
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Stull was referring to the Excel Corporation’s proposed beef packing plant, a huge facility that would process between 500,000 and 600,000 head of Iowa cattle each year. The $100 million plant, a partnership with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association and the Iowa Department of Economic Development, is still in the planning stages.
Excel has not chosen a location for the plant, but several are under consideration, including Worth County.
Stull has studied and written a book on the impact of slaughterhouses on communities for more than 14 years including towns such as Garden City, Kan. and Guymon, Okla. He told the gathering of more than 100 people at the Kensett Community Center to be prepared for major changes if the Excel plant comes to Worth County.
&uot;There will be costs and the community will change significantly if a plant comes,&uot; Stull said. &uot;It’s up to you to decide a plant will be a plus or a minus to the community.&uot;
Stull outlined some of the changes large meat processors bring to communities, including the influx of immigrant labor, the need for housing suited to low-wage workers and their families, changes to local school enrollments and a general increase in crime rates.
But slaughterhouses can also create positive changes such as increased traffic through the county and new service-sector jobs to accommodate the new workers, Stull said. Also, the tax base of the county would increase dramatically.
Stull spent several months on the line at a packing house for his research, and talked at length about the challenges of working in a slaughterhouse. Generally considered a difficult and dangerous job, meat processors have a relatively high rate of injury, and the line workers come and go.
&uot;It’s difficult work, and the wages aren’t high enough to retain line workers,&uot; Stull said.
Though he said he isn’t against meat processing as an industry, Stull said each plant has a responsibility to its community to minimize the negative impact as much as possible.
The meeting was sponsored by Citizens for Community Involvement, an organization dedicated to making good neighbors out of major industry.