|Residents concerned about processing plant|
|June 06, 2013 Jerry Purvis|
Value-added ag businesses are usually actively recruited for the area, but a proposed beef processing plant east of Scottsbluff has generated a lot of concern from local residents.
The company, Future Food Energy, estimates that 100 to 150 workers will be hired for the plant. Part of the workforce would be comprised of Korean-Americans, recruited from the Denver area.
Company representative Keith DeHaan has already held two public hearings on the proposed plant to address concerns. He said that when the plant is fully operational, it will employ between 550 and 600 workers, which is only about three percent of the overall community workforce.
During the presentations, DeHaan said the company would work with local producers to purchase ranch direct cattle. And he also admitted there will be some issues to address, but the company plans to be proactive in working on them.
Most of the concerns were generated by how Lexington, Neb. changed when a beef processing plant came into that community. People feared a mostly foreign population would tax schools, law enforcement and other health and human service agencies.
One of the people concerned is Scottsbluff resident Lindy Abernethy, who has grandchildren in both Scottsbluff and Gering schools. She’s also familiar with the problems Lexington has experienced.
“If the plant is well-run, it could be a success,” Abernethy said. “But too often, these plants go out of business, leaving the local communities to clean up the mess. If it’s like Lexington and these other places, it’s just ruined the town. It’s a burden on schools, the healthcare system and social service agencies. I’d hate to see that happen to Scottsbluff and Gering.”
She added the changed culture in Lexington has generated gang-related activity, creating a bad environment for raising a family.
She also said a hostile environment has been created in the Lexington schools, when players, coaches and fans of the sports teams would insult opposing players in Spanish.
“I’m just a concerned citizen,” Abernethy said. “I’ve heard from a lot of people in central Nebraska, and we don’t want that to happen here.”
She said we do need jobs in the area, but we need to employ people here rather than bring in people from outside the area.
Not all the input at the two public forums was negative. Several people, including ag producers, said agriculture is the valley’s leading industry and believed the area should consider the project.
It would not only create more jobs, but other ancillary business opportunities.
Scottsbluff City Manager Rick Kuckkahn said the council would be studying the proposal over the next couple of months. While they are not rushing to a decision, they want to be diligent and not unnecessarily delay the project.