Creighton University economics professor Ernie Goss presented the findings last night of a comprehensive report on the financial impact of the major new pork processing plant that will be built in northern Iowa.
Goss spoke in the Hamilton County town of Stanhope on the pros and cons of the $246 million Prestage Farms plant that’s planned south of Eagle Grove. “There’s an increase in the first year of operations of about $45-million in state and local tax collections,” Goss says. “There are costs as well. You’ve got to increase hiring of teachers, there’ll be school costs, there’ll be highway costs.”
Overall, Goss says there will be a net gain from the plant going online, saying state and local tax collections will be greater than the costs. The report says the plant will increase the price of hogs by 3.5 percent. The estimated average added revenue is expected to be $724 per farm in the 10-county north-central Iowa area. It’s also estimated the plant will support 193 packer and non-packer farms. Goss says employment is another key factor.
“Direct jobs, you’re talking about at least on the first shift, 900 to 1,000 jobs at the facility itself,” Goss says. “When you take into account the spill-over jobs in the 10-county area, you’re in the neighborhood of 3,500 total jobs, so that’s quite significant.” Goss says the report also covered the impact on school districts in the area, at a time when many schools are closing or consolidating.
“For a lot of school districts, it’s going to be welcome news to have more students rather than fewer students,” Goss says, “but the overall cost is about, we estimate, $21-million per year, and that cost is borne by some federal dollars, some state dollars, and of course, local dollars.”
The ten counties considered in the report are: Calhoun, Franklin, Hamilton, Hardin, Humboldt, Kossuth, Palo Alto, Pocahontas, Webster and Wright. Construction is set to begin this spring and may take 18 to 21 months. Goss will make another presentation this afternoon at 4:30 at Robert Blue Middle School in Eagle Grove, with presentations next week in Fort Dodge and Humboldt.
The complete report will be posted next week on the Mid Iowa Growth Partnership website.
(By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)