Okla. beef plant groundbreaking delayed

US - Groundbreaking on a $200 million Smithfield Beef processing plant in the Oklahoma Panhandle has been delayed again, leaving some residents wondering if the facility will be built at all.
calendar icon 13 March 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
Last fall, the company announced construction would begin near the tiny cattle town of Hooker in January, but those plans were moved to sometime in the first quarter of 2007 because the engineering, design and bidding process was taking longer than expected.

With the final weeks of the quarter slipping away, the company released a statement Monday -- but dated Feb. 20 -- saying there have been some delays in "finalizing the engineering plans for the facility because we are looking at several options and enhancements.

"But this is a major undertaking and we want to get all of the details right," the statement said. "We prefer to take the appropriate time up front and evaluate our options in order to make sure we have the most efficient, effective plant possible."

Monday, Smithfield Beef Group spokeswoman Beth Andersen said a groundbreaking date has yet to be scheduled.

"I don't know what the time frame is," she said.

The plant, which is expected to create as many as 3,000 jobs, could put Hooker back on the map, some residents say.

The struggling Texas County town of about 1,700 has seen Main Street businesses close and folks leave for neighboring cities in the past decade.

It is located in an area that ranks among the nation's biggest producers of beef, grain and farm supplies. There are an estimated 600,000 head of cattle on farms within 25 miles of the proposed plant.

Word of another delay on the project was greeted with mixed emotions Monday.

Supporters of the plant, such as city councilman Earl Meng, who has lived in Hooker for 60 years, said his town "may dry up" if Smithfield doesn't come.

"We don't know what they're going to do for sure," said Meng, who added that the city council was planning a special meeting to discuss the latest delays and the future of the plant.

Source: Business Week
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