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Christian County eliminated from consideration as site of massive beef processing plant

South Western Kentucky Economic Development Council
An aerial view shows a 378-acre tract (above the CSX rail line) that a Wisconsin meatpacking company has considered for a massive slaughterhouse. The land is on John Rivers Road. The town of Pembroke is visible in the upper left corner of the photo.

Christian County has been eliminated from consideration as the site of a 500,000-square-foot beef processing facility that was expected to employ more than 1,300 workers at a site on John Rivers Road, according to an announcement from Carter Hendricks, director of the South Western Kentucky Economic Development Council.

“As a result of the company’s ongoing analysis, the company has decided to pursue other options due to logistical considerations and the availability of commodity as compared to the competitive site,” Hendricks said in an email to media Monday evening. He added that the SWKEDC encourages the company — which was identified last week as the Green Bay, Wisconsin-based American Foods Group — to consider additional locations within Kentucky.

News of the proposed development has drawn heavy scrutiny from many county residents and some public officials.

In the first public discussion about the project on Sept. 27 in the old Pembroke school gymnasium, a group of residents who live close to the site overwhelmingly opposed the plan. They cited concerns about the smell of cattle and manure, truck traffic, wastewater treatment, groundwater pollution, the available workforce, housing for workers, school capacity and an influx of foreign workers.

Another community meeting for opponents was set for Oct. 12, during which organizers aimed to “establish a forceful message to take to local industrial leadership, elected officials and decision-makers to ensure they understand we do not want this industry, of any size or nature, in our community,” according to the announcement.

On Thursday, just days after the first community meeting, AFG representatives, state agriculture officials and a group of Kentucky cattlemen gathered in Hopkinsville for a series of meetings about the proposal.

During one discussion, Rep. Myron Dossett and Christian County Magistrate Phillip Peterson told company officials to not build here, Dossett told Hoptown Chronicle as he and Peterson emerged from an airport terminal building following the meeting with AFG representatives.

At Breathitt Veterinary Center, discussions focused on the broader relationship between Kentucky cattle farm interests and AFG, according to Jerry Gilliam, who is in the cattle business and serves on Christian Fiscal Court. Gilliam told Hoptown Chronicle that he would oppose incentives for the facility if any came before the Fiscal Court.

The Hopkinsville Industrial Foundation board also met Thursday to discuss the foundation’s land contract with Phillip and Billy Garnett, the brothers who own the site of interest. Phillip, who was opposed to the development, was the organizer of the first community meeting.

Shortly after Hendricks’ email was sent, the Pembroke Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution opposing the proposed slaughterhouse.

Despite the proposed site being located just a mile from most residences and businesses in Pembroke, the city never received “any official information from the company concerning said facility,” according to the resolution. It also noted the city would not receive any direct tax or other fiscal benefit from the development.

The resolution states that board members share residents’ concerns about the project related to traffic congestion, environmental impact, odor, noise, blocked rail crossings, the already tight labor market, and the likelihood of an increased demand on city services.

This story first appeared in the Hoptown Chronicle, a non-profit news service for Hopkinsville.

Julia Hunter is the engagement editor for Hoptown Chronicle.
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