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Commission Chair Optimistic About Beef Plant Future

January 26, 2014, 10:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Commission Chair Optimistic About Beef Plant Future
ABERDEEN, SD -

After meeting with a representative of Investment banking firm White Oak Global Advisors, the Brown County commission chair is optimistic an idled beef plant near Aberdeen will open this year.

At first, timelines and targeted opening dates didn’t play out as announced. Then, it was a partial start-up, followed by layoffs, bankruptcy and unpaid workers. But the now-idled beef plant in Aberdeen could have a fresh start.

White Oak submitted the winning multi-million dollar bid to buy the plant last month. When representatives of the company were in Aberdeen, they met with Brown County commissioners.

“They would not commit to any kind of closing date or when they anticipated the plant to be open or anything, but we had a good visit,” commission chair Duane Sutton said.

Sutton and one other commissioner met with a representative of White Oak and a representative of a livestock group that would likely be involved in the plant’s future. Sutton says he left the meeting optimistic.

“They are involved in this type of operation and we got a good feeling that if anyone is going to make this thing go, they’ve got the resources and the ability, the experience to make it work,” Sutton said.

The plant owes property taxes. If its sale to White Oak is finalized, the White Oak representative told commissioners his company would pay the bill and remain current with taxes.

In the past, plant representatives also said they would pay close to $1 million toward adding a concrete surface to a road west of the plant. That would give trucks a route that would bypass a road running along the high school.

Sutton understood that commitment would transfer with the property.

“They indicated that they were aware of it and they understand the importance of it,” Sutton said.

Even though he didn’t hear a timeline in the meeting, Sutton says he left the meeting thinking the beef plant would be operating by the end of this year. Representatives also acknowledged challenges, Sutton said.

“They indicated that they wanted to work with everyone to kind of put some of the negativity that’s been the result of what’s happened in the past behind us and really move forward in a positive manner,” Sutton said.

At this point, questions of ‘if’ and ‘when’ still remain.

In addition to the verbal promise, Sutton says commissioners have received paperwork showing the firm’s commitment to paying the owed taxes.

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