Hog plant negotiations continuing

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 24, 2003

The city of Albert Lea is finalizing its preliminary agreement with Premium Pork LLC.

&uot;Our attorney is supposed to finish a combined draft agreement, hopefully by today or tomorrow,&uot; City Manager Paul Sparks explained Tuesday. &uot;We’ll make some final changes to that and then we will send it to Kansas City.&uot;

At their last meeting, the city council passed a list of requests for the company. The requirements were designed to assure that the company would get no city assistance unless the corporate headquarters is built in Albert Lea; that the company will have to pay back any tax assistance it gets if it leaves town before the tax-increment district expires; and that the company would begin investing in the plant before the city would do the same, among other things.

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The city also gave Sparks and Mayor Jean Eaton the power to negotiate an agreement with the company.

Sparks said the city, when done with the agreement, will send it to the company, who will send back a counter-proposal.

&uot;I hope we can have a combined agreement by Thursday,&uot; Sparks said.

Sparks said he doubts that the company and city will have their agreement hammered out by Monday, when the council meets, but said the process should go faster in the next stages.

The company will have their own requests, Sparks said, such as quantifying how much tax-increment financing they will get.

The company has not yet released any information about the sites they are looking at, according to Sparks.He said that they are looking for a site on their own and that the city won’t have anything to do with buying the site.

The company is considering Albert Lea, St. Joseph, Mo. and, reportedly, one other Midwestern city for its plant.

While St. Joseph, Mo. mayor David Jones said the company told him they are thinking of building two facilities, one with a corporate headquarters, Sparks refuted that.

After asking company officials about what Jones had said, Sparks said, &uot;They told me that what the mayor of St. Joseph said has no bearing on what they have here.&uot;

&uot;They aren’t planning on building two plants,&uot; Sparks said.

Jones said he’d heard that from company officials.

&uot;I just know they may have two sites, they told me that, but that was the last time we talked about that,&uot; he said.

St. Joseph held a community forum on the plant Wednesday, and most of those who spoke at the meeting supported the plant &045; a contrast from several years ago when the community largely objected to a Seaboard plan to build a similar plant, but without the corporate headquarters. Seaboard eventually pulled its plan.

Rick Hoffman, former CEO of Seaboard, is heading up Premium Pork, a new company that is also reportedly backed by investors whose names are being kept confidential.