A massive “COVID-friendly” beef processing facility is planned for southwest Iowa that promises to create hundreds of jobs and boost the region’s economy by more than a billion dollars a year.
Project developer Chad Tentinger is founder and owner of TenCorp, a cattle industry construction firm with offices in Des Moines and Marcus. The newly-formed Cattlemen’s Heritage Beef will construct the $325 million plant in Mills County.
“We’ll be the first state-of-the-art new facility built in western Iowa in more than two generations,” Tentinger says. “We will employ up to 750 workers and our estimated annual economic impact is $1.1 billion to the local economy.”
Tentinger says the plant will fill a “critical gap” between conglomerates and under-sized lockers that aren’t equipped to meet the needs of consumers, producers or retailers. He notes several years of weak cattle markets and strong retail prices demonstrate that now is the ideal time to build.
Tentinger says, “What we’ve seen over the last two years with, obviously, interruptions in the economy has shown that over the last 20 years, we have added capacity through feedlots in the Midwest with high-quality cattle and we just simply have not kept up with the capacity to process those cattle.”
A news release says workers at the plant will have an average annual wage of $55,000, plus benefits. At capacity, Tentinger says the facility will be able to process up to 15-hundred head of cattle per day.
Tentinger says, “I think a large portion will come from Iowa but I think, just based on location, obviously, we will draw out of eastern Nebraska and eastern South Dakota also.” The coronavirus outbreak forced the temporary closure of some Iowa meatpacking plants last year with deadly outbreaks among the workforce. Tentinger says this plant will be built with the advantage of having seen what’s happened with COVID-19.
“Larger spacing, more room inside the plant, layout, taking all of that into consideration, with state-of-the-art new equipment, new spacing, new requirements,” he says. “It will be the first plant built with COVID-friendly in mind.”
The facility will be built along Interstate 29 in Mills County near the Pottawattamie County line and south of Council Bluffs. Construction is to begin in the spring of 2022 with the opening in the winter of 2023.
Governor Kim Reynolds released a statement this morning: “Iowa has a reputation for producing safe, reliable, and quality products that feed our nation and a growing world population,” Reynolds said. “TenCorp, Inc.’s new facility will add greater stability, processing capacity, and value to our state’s agriculture industry. I am excited about this project and what it means not only for Iowa’s cattle industry, but the continued growth and expansion of Iowa agriculture.”