City competing with two others for company

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 22, 2003

There are two other cities competing with Albert Lea for Premium Pork LLC’s 2,000 job corporate headquarters facility.

City Manager Paul Sparks did not share the names of the two cities, but both are in the Midwest.

Sparks said that the company’s pork will be raised in northern Iowa, not far from Albert Lea, which puts the city at a regional advantage.

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But what seems most important to the company is the timeline.

&uot;Whoever can arrive at a decision in a timely fashion with reliability will be in good shape,&uot; Sparks said.

Sparks said the city has the infrastructure, the industry history of the city, and the room for a 2,000 person growth, as the city has lost close to that over the past 20 years.

Thursday night, the four

city councilors at the pre-agenda meeting agreed that the city should go forward with drawing up contracts with the company.

The city plans to have a proposal contract within the next two weeks and hopes for a much more thorough proposal with the company by the end of April or beginning of May.

Sparks said the city will have some requirements, such as a wage and benefit plan equal to or better than that of Farmland’s Foods’ in July of 2001, a guarantee for length of stay for the company headquarters, proof that the company has a line of credit to cover any expenditures the city pays for if the company were to back out, and others that have not yet been stipulated.

Tax increment financing would likely be used for the facility. Sparks said the city would try to use a state tax free zone, but since the legislation is not yet passed, and a deal has to be made by this summer, there would be no way to guarantee that.

If the city were to come to agreement with Premium Pork LLC, Sparks said the company would want to break ground by the end of summer and be up and running within two years of that.

The facility would be 600,000 square feet, not 120,000 square feet which was first reported.

Sparks said the facility would be ‘state of the art’ and would cover 50-80 acres. The most likely area for the plant would be the south part of the city.

Sparks said the technology used in the plant would have everything under the roof, including the stock yards, the waste treatment and all other processing.

He said this would mean that there would be little odor.

The plant work force would grow slowly.

&uot;The employment levels are going to grow over a seven year period,&uot; Sparks said. &uot;This would give us ample time to set up a good environment for housing development and affordable housing.&uot;

The school district has been supportive of discussions with the company, Sparks said. The district has had declining enrollment and could benefit financially from more families moving in to the area.

The largest concern for the company is whether or not the community would be supportive of such a venture.

There are issues tied with the addition of such a facility to the community and the addition of 2,000 jobs to the economy.

&uot;Anytime you start to grow and get bigger, it brings changes, both good and bad,&uot; Sparks said. He added that by not growing, the city will instead shrink.

As always with economic development, uncertainty plays a large factor.

&uot;Everyone needs to keep in mind that nothing is guaranteed,&uot; Sparks said. &uot;Things seem favorable though&uot;