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Packing plant site still to be determined
May 28, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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Despite numerous questions from the public regarding the proposed meatpacking plant and a recent presentation to the Banner County Board of Commissioners on the project, no decision has been made yet as to where the plant will be located.

Morrill County stock feeder Pete Lapaseotes is part of the local investment group seeking to build a packing plant in western Nebraska. He said the presentation to Banner County officials was the same one he gave earlier this year in Gering – the group’s business model, plant capacity, needed infrastructure and other considerations for siting a meatpacking plant.

“A couple of citizens in Banner County and a commissioner asked me to present the proposal to them,” Lapaseotes said. “I think the community just wanted to hear about it. They wanted to see if there was a possibility it could work in their county.”

The group is still working on the project. “I can’t believe we don’t have a site picked out yet, but we will have one,” he emphasized. “Once the group makes a decision, we’ll make it public.”
Lapaseotes said that any packing plant would need to be in a location that had access to water, sewer or lagoon systems, and about 60 acres of land with good access to heavy truck traffic.

“Western Nebraska is a large cattle production area,” he said. “With all the corn we grow, it’s an excellent area for this type of plant.”
Lapaseotes said the group still has a piece of land near Gering and one in the Bridgeport area. They are also looking at two or three other sites in western Nebraska.

Three major considerations are required for a meatpacking plant: cattle, water and logistics. Logistics is the proximity to area markets. Because Nebraska is in the center of the U.S., products can be shipped to California and New York for about the same cost.

Until a site for the plant is selected, the group is in what is called the “due diligence” phase. But selecting a site is just the beginning. That’s followed by 12 to 18 months for design and construction. It will be about two years before the plant even opens.
The building itself will be in the range of 17,000 square feet, located on about 40 acres of land. Group members said the plant should begin processing about 500 head of cattle per day for the first year, 1,000 a day for the second year, and topping out at 1,500 head per day in the third year of operation and beyond.

Operating at a capacity of 1,500 head of cattle per day, the plant would need about 550 employees. The group plans to start with 150 and work up from there. And Lapaseotes said if possible, they’d like to hire the entire workforce from people already living in the Panhandle.

“We want to be as progressive as we can in the future,” Lapaseotes said at the earlier Gering meeting. “But this is a business and we want to do it right.”
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