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Plans end for packing plant
April 08, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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After being in development for the past seven years, a proposal by a local investment group to bring a meat packing plant to western Nebraska has officially been halted.

Morrill County stock feeders Pete Lapaseotes and Leo Hoehn, two of the partners in the investment group F2E Global LLC, said they have stepped away from the project and will no longer be involved.

“Due to the amount of time that has gone by without any progress being made, it’s in our best interest and the community’s best interest to not go forward,” Lapaseotes said.

He added the group has had limited contact with their South Korean partners for a few weeks, and have no idea whether that group will pursue the project on their own.

“We’re still communicating, but we’ve made a decision to step away. It’s as simple as that,” Lapaseotes said.

The project to build a packing plant with both local and Korean investors was first announced in February 2015. Two potential sites, Gering and Bridgeport, were being considered. A third site, unidentified at the time, was also in the mix.

The proposed meatpacking plant would have been about 170,000 square feet, located on some 40 acres of land. Their business model was to process up to 1,500 head of cattle a day after three years of operation. That would have required about 550 employees.

By June 2015, the previously unidentified site became known. It was Minatare. The June 16 city council meeting was contentious at times with input from both opponents and supporters. By the end of the meeting, council members approved a proposal to offer Minatare as a possible site for a meatpacking plant. It passed on a 3-1 vote.

Minatare community leaders had been investigating possible projects that would provide new jobs and new revenue for the struggling town of about 800 residents.

During that June council meeting, Minatare School Superintendent Tim Cody made an appeal to support the F2E proposal to bring a meatpacking plant to the town. He said potential development was essential for the schools to continue to grow.

“When I came here as school superintendent, people were asking how much longer we could remain open,” he said. “We’re a dying community and people from Scottsbluff and Gering don’t care about that. I’ve studied this proposal and I’m not afraid to take the gamble. I want this community to survive.”

At their August meeting, the Minatare council agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding with F2E.

Once the investment group completed all the governmental and environmental paperwork, which was estimated to take up to two years, the city agreed it would annex a proposed site in east Minatare.

Once the site was annexed into the city, the council would approve Tax Increment Financing to help fund the project.

Since last August, the project has been at a standstill, causing local investors to back away from the partnership. F2E closed its Ft. Collins, Colo. office on March 31 and the furniture has been donated to the Minatare School District.

Superintendent Cody said the decision hasn’t had an effect on the schools yet. “I watch the Legislature closely whenever they mess with state aid to education,” he said. “In Minatare, we’re dependent on that aid to keep the schools open. We’re going to be around for the next couple of years at least, until the Legislature decides what they’re going to do.”
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