New Uses for Closed Tyson Foods Plant in Cherokee Hard to Come By
They closed down the Tyson Foods plant along Cherokee’s Main Street, and according to City Councilman Will Miller, it is like a house left empty. In 2014, the meat processing plant closed down and since Tyson was the largest employer in town, Cherokee businesses took an economic hit after the company vacated their building.
Local businesses went on as usual despite the fact that the multinational food company continues to pay $130,000 annually in rent for an empty 250,000-square-foot building along Main Street. City leaders, however, are not pleased. According to City Councilman Chad Brown, it feels like Tyson has held the northwest town of 5,000 on economic hostage since the plant closed down.
Away with Competition
Tyson Foods is open to turning over their shuttered plant to another business, but not to any company which they see as a competitor. Caroline Ahn, Tyson spokeswoman, revealed that they have had talks with three different food companies. The business talks fell through, however, because of competing interests.
In a statement released by Ahn, she said that Tyson Foods “would be willing to entertain an offer from another company, including another food company, that is also consented to by the building owner […] To date, we have not received a fair offer to take over the lease or purchase the assets that were in the facility.” Without specifying the company’s competitive concerns, Ahn said that the evaluation of offers from potential companies will be on a case-to-case basis.
Darren Zweifel, another Cherokee business owner along Main Street, thinks that the meat processing company’s decision is a “large-scale greed.” Such organizations get large enough “that they forget about the impact they have on the people who have served them over the years,” added Zweifel.
Huge Economic Player in Iowa
Tyson Foods may have pulled out of Cherokee in 2014, but they remain a major economic player in Iowa. Their many operating plants in and around the northwest include a hog processing plant in Perry, which employs 1,150 workers, as well as pork and turkey plants in Storm Lake, which employ more than 1,500 workers.
As a multinational company, Tyson Foods owns consumer brands of processed foods, in addition to their fresh meat products. These processed food brands include Sarah Lee baked goods and Ball Park hot dogs. The company employs a combined 11,500 workers in their seven Iowa plants, contributing an estimated $4 billion to the state’s economy.
Some local officials like City Administrator Sam Kooiker have been wondering if the company’s steadfast refusal to give up the former meat-processing plant to seemingly competitive companies has to do with limiting competition in the labor pool.
Building owner Mark Langfan echoes this, saying “I cannot believe that an American company, as storied and civic-minded as yourselves would actually knowingly perpetuate such hardships on the workers who helped build the company all these years, and a municipality that had so actively sought to partner and support your company.”
Tyson Foods will continue to maintain the $130,000 annual lease until 2020 because of contractual obligation, unless the multinational company and the property owner agree on a new building tenant before then.