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Feeders announce plan for packing plant
February 25, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
Morrill County stock feeders Pete Lapaseotes and Leo Hoehn, two members of a local investment group, announced plans to build a meatpacking plant in the area. Two localities under consideration are Gering and Bridgeport. There is also potential for a third location.
Gering native Josh Berger with Tetrad Property Group has been working on the project, which has been in the development stage for the past seven years.

Meeting with media members on Tuesday, Berger said large scale projects are slow moving. “These projects take time and can’t get out of order; we have to stay in the process,” he said. “Some of the process is confidential and we just can’t disclose everything.”

Berger said they don’t want to make the same mistakes that happened with a proposed plant in Scottsbluff. The want to make all the right steps, conduct all the due diligence and keep the public informed along the way. It’s a conservative investment group with a well thought out business plan.

Objections sometimes focus on what happened to Lexington once a major packing plant opened there. But with new technology, the smell that used to be associated with packing plants has been pretty much eliminated. And while there was some economic upheaval while the plant was growing, it also gave rise to numerous new retail and service businesses in the area.

Berger said the group is now in the due diligence stage, where they identify a suitable location for the proposed plant. That’s followed by 12 to 18 months for design and construction. So it will be about two years before the plant even opens. The building itself will be in the 170,000 square foot range, located on about 40 acres of land.

The business model is to process about 500 head of cattle a day in the first year of operation, 1,000 day in the second year, then topping out at 1,500 head a day in year three and beyond. About 30 to 40 percent of the processed beef will go to import to Asian markets. The rest would be for domestic consumption.

With 1,500 head a day, the plant will need about 550 employees. They would start with 150 employees and work up from there.

“We think we can organically grow that workforce right out of the Panhandle,” Berger said. “I think that in the 15 cities in the area, we should be able to find 550 people who want to work for us.”

Lapaseotes agreed, saying they’d like to hire their entire workforce from the Panhandle, if possible.
Berger said they have some “runway” time to plan for the impact a plant will have on the community, from schools to law enforcement and infrastructure needs.

The three major considerations for a packing plant are cattle, water and logistics. Berger said the area has all three. Logistics is the proximity of the plant to area markets. Nebraska, being in the center of the U.S., can ship products to California and New York for about the same cost.

“We want to be as progressive as we can in the future,” Lapaseotes said. “But this is a business and we want to do it right.”
Hoehn said the corn industry is pretty much maxed out as far as growth, and the only area for future growth in the area is in the cattle industry.

Berger said the group would like to have a site identified within the next two months, with a public announcement made at that time.
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