Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is sending a letter to the head of Tyson Foods, a company which leaders in the northwest Iowa town of Cherokee say is holding their community hostage.
Tyson closed its factory in Cherokee in 2014 but continues to pay rent on the empty building. Grassley says he’s heard allegations Tyson simply doesn’t want a competitor moving in.
“There were hundreds of jobs there that were lost when they closed their plant,” Grassley says. “There’s a possibility Cherokee can get jobs back if we can settle the difference between Tyson and the owner of the building.” Grassley is asking Tyson’s CEO to work with community leaders to restore the 450 jobs at the shuttered meat processing plant.
Grassley says, “We can’t force them to do it but I think as an honest broker that I have a responsibility to help as best I can.” The Republican from New Hartford says he wants to ensure the facility can be occupied and productive again, adding, there would be mutual interest in seeing the factory reopened to restore economic vitality and livelihoods in Cherokee.
Grassley says, “What we’re trying to do is just bring the people together to sit down and talk and to think of the greater good for the community of Cherokee as opposed to the selfish interests of an owner of the building and however Tyson’s involved with it.” While Cherokee leaders claim Tyson won’t let any company it considers a competitor start the process of moving in, the company denies it.
A Tyson spokesman says the company has been in talks with three food producers about the empty plant, but the deals all fell through. Tyson officials say they’re locked in a lease with the property owner and are paying $130,000 a month in rent on the vacant space.