North Carolina-based Prestage Farms has announced plans to build a 10,000 head-capacity hog processing plant in Mason City. The company's estimated investment would be $240 million.
"As far as we can tell in North Iowa history, there's nothing that really compares to this," says Chad Schreck, president and CEO of the North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corporation. Right now, he says, many area hog farmers drive an hour to Waterloo or take their animals across the state line into Minnesota. Additional slaughter facilities are as far away as Sioux City or in South Dakota and Nebraska.
"This will really help to keep more of that product in state," Schreck says, "keep those dollars producing revenues right here."
Iowa State University livestock economist Lee Schulz says Iowa leads the country in pork production year after year.
"As the swine industry continues to produce more pigs for market, one of the main constraints on production continues to be having adequate space to grow the market hogs and slaughter capacity," Schulz says. "In the recent past, there has been limited addition to slaughter capacity so there is some pent up demand."
Prestage Farms already works with more than 100 swine farms in Iowa and at least 50 percent of the slaughter plant's animals would come from the company's farms.
If the plant gets built, Prestage would become the biggest taxpayer in Mason City and Cerro Gordo County, Schreck says, even though it's likely to receive up to a 50-percent tax rebate from the city for 10 years and potentially $13 million in state incentives. Those details have not yet been finalized.
Schreck says another bonus to Mason City residents and businesses could be reduced water bills. The city's water system was replaced some years ago and he says it has never been used to its potential.
"We're overcharging our citizens because we're not using all of the capacity," Schreck says. "The positive there is that it gave us the opportunity where we can take on a project like this where a lot of communities would have to build a whole new water system to serve it."
Schreck says customers could see as much as a 10-percent reduction in their water bills once the plant is up and running and Prestage starts tapping some of that available capacity.
Prestage plans to begin construction this summer with the plant opening in its first phase after two years and employing about 1,000 people. Two years later it hopes to expand to a second shift, with 2,000 employees and 20,000 hogs processed daily.