Prestage Foods intends to build new plant near Eagle Grove

 

Prestage Foods of Iowa announced Tuesday, July 5, that they intend to bring nearly 1,000 jobs to Wright County by the end of summer 2018.
 
Co-owner Ron Prestage, DVM, pending state and local approval, confirmed that a $240 million hog plant will be built on a 150+ acre site located southwest of Eagle Grove. It is slated to be a 650,000 square-foot facility and bring in $2.7 million in property taxes. Prestage Foods Chief Operating Officer, Jere Null, called it a 50-year asset for both Prestage and Wright County.
 
After a bid to build the plant in Mason City failed to gain approval from their City Council (on a 3-3 vote), Wright County Economic Development’s Bryce Davis and The Wright County Board of Supervisors got together to express an interest in showing Prestage what Wright County had to offer. According to Prestage, they were one of 19 communities and eight states after the Mason City vote to contact them and via for the new business. After several meetings to see if Wright County and Prestage were a “good fit” for each other, a decision was reached that indeed it was. That means Prestage could bring a payroll in excess of $43 million annually with an additional employee benefits packet of $13 million to the Wright County area.
 
“It kind of worked out for the best...we realize now that we’re better off and recognize that smaller towns in Iowa are more familiar with agriculture,” said Prestage.
 
He also noted that after further study, they realized there are more people (workforce) within a 20-mile radius of Eagle Grove than within a 20-mile radius of Mason City.
 
“We think we’re going to help this county kick up the ladder...when you invest $240 million, you have to staff the plant...and there is a workforce here. You need to offer competitive wages, benefit packages, and more...and we have a history of that.”
 
The lowest paying position at Prestage Foods of Iowa starts at $13 an hour. The average pay rate will be $15.71. For upper management levels, salaries reach into the triple digits. For all positions, they will be looking to hire locally. Shifts are five days a week, 10 hours a day (paid overtime). At $13, that’s $37,000 a year plus benefits. At $15.71 that’s $47,000 per year plus benefits.
 
Supervisor Karl Helgevold pointed out that with the Wright County per capita income at $25,964 and household income at $43,082, a pay rate like Prestage is offering is huge.
 
“It gives young people the opportunity to have a career, not just a job,” added Null, acknowledging they like to promote from within the local company.
 
While Prestage is a top five producer of hogs and turkeys in the United States, they are proud to say they are still independently owned and family operated. The business was founded in 1983 by Bill and Marsha Prestage. The leadership has remained in the family for three generations with sons Scott, John, and Ron now at the helm.
 
Why Wright County
 
Many people may not realize that Prestage is already located in 30 Iowa counties, including Wright. They have been in Iowa 12 years and have even taken over the Jack DeCoster operation in Wright County with overall good reception.
 
“It’s a way we can add value and grow Wright County by promoting our incredible assets and supporting our main industry in a progressive and proactive manner,” said Helgevold.
 
Prestage also acknowledges that Wright County is a good geographical location for them. Today, most of the U.S. hogs are traded off the Iowa/southern Minnesota hog market because this region is at the center of production for hogs.
 
“We want to make this a robust market...additional demand and additional markets are needed,” said Prestage.
 
“Our single biggest motivating factor (in building this plant) is that it’s healthy for the swine industry to have an American family business as a packer,” said Prestage. “Fairness and competitive markets are good for all independent pork producers.”
 
Prestage will produce 60 percent of the pigs they will kill. The other 40 percent will
be purchased from independent producers.
 
“That’s why Iowa Pork Producers are excited we are building in Iowa,” said Null.
 
“The Governor (Branstad) has been very supportive of this whole thing too,” added Prestage.
 
Another reason they chose Wright County is the training opportunities for skilled workers through the Career Academy and Iowa Central Community College. Prestage offers tuition reimbursement for employees willing to further their education to benefit their position in the company. Just a couple of examples of skilled labor needed includes microbiology, engineering - they even have a full-time medical and full-time safety person on staff.
 
“We absolutely believe we can fill the plant with good workers,” Null said. That includes general labor, skilled labor, and management positions.
 
Prestage is also proud to say Wright County is a preferred location for their new plant as they buy about half their Iowa feed needs from Gold-Eagle Cooperative. The close proximity to the new location will only be an added benefit.
 
“Gold-Eagle Cooperative has been doing business with the Prestage family for many years. They have continuously been excellent business partners and we would recommend them without exception,” said Brad Davis, general manager of Gold-Eagle Cooperative. “We value our business relationship with Prestage Farms and look forward to many more years of the same.”
 
Good Neighbors Promise
 
Prestage facilities strive to be a source of pride not only for their company, but for their community as well. They stress that they will not be the “old-day processing plants” that were once considered an eye-sore and polluted the air with odor.
 
“We are big on aesthetics - landscaping, trees, retention ponds...it should be something the community is proud of,” Null said. “Where it makes sense, we also reduce our carbon footprint while still remaining sustainable.”
 
They will do this by capturing methane from the lagoon utilizing the air and scrubbing for odors.
Prestage could also aid the community of Eagle Grove in their waste water needs. Helgevold confirmed that mandated updates are most likely coming for all cities, which could potentially put a tax burden on small-town residents. However, Prestage plans on a long-term contract to purchase waste water services from Eagle Grove, which would provide a cash flow to help offset the cost of improvements.
 
“We are successful in business because we pride ourselves on being good corporate citizens in the communities we do business in,” said Ron.
 
Involvement in the Community
 
“People will find that we are very engaged in the community,” said Null. “We are very active both participation wise and in monetary support.”
 
Just some of that involvement over the years includes hospitals, community colleges, fire and rescue, law enforcement, Scouting, FFA, local schools, United Way, Chamber of Commerce, Relay for Life, and other civic events. They look forward to becoming involved with Wright County organizations and functions as well.
“Iowa, and more specifically, Wright County, is the logical place for this plant,” said Prestage. “We are excited about this opportunity for our company, the pork industry, and the people of Wright County.”
 
 
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The Board of Supervisors will hold a Press Conference at 2:30pm today, Tuesday, July 5, at the Wright County courthouse to provide more information on the Prestage project.

 
 
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