A $16 million state-incentive package clinched the deal for St. Joseph, Mo.-based Triumph Foods to build a pork processing plant in East Moline.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced Thursday that Illinois' Opportunity Returns program would offer tax incentives to Triumph to build a plant near Barstow Road and 172nd Street North. He praised Triumph for bringing at least 1,000 new jobs to northwest Illinois.
So the state stepped up and met Triumph's blackmail demands and now Triumph has decided to beautify the wetlands west of Barstow with a 116 acre slaughterhouse, thus spreading the tax loss across more people than just the 4 local cities.
Pictured beaming proudly on the site of the slaughterhouse in it's natural state before it's turned into an immense high-volume slaughtering facility were:
3rd Ward Alderman Luis Moreno, 5th Ward Alderman Rick Meredith, 7th Ward Alderman Gary Westbrook, city treasurer Bill Vyncke, Mayor John Thodos, 6th Ward Alderman Gary Kelley, 1st Ward Alderman Helen Heiland, 2nd Ward Alderman Luis Puentes, and Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline.
If you stand to turn a buck off the plant, don't live anywhere within miles of it, and aren't troubled by its potentially large negative impact or the millions in tax giveaways which are essentially corporate welfare, the folks listed above are some of the people to thank.
Last December, East Moline officials said a state-incentive package was one domino(i.e. payoff)
that needed to fall into place for Triumph to build the plant. Enterprise-zone incentives were also part of the plan, but Silvis voted them down twice in April. Triumph could have received more than $3 million in incentives if its proposed site were included in a zone, [Triumph CEO] Hoffman said.
However, the state-incentive package makes up for the loss in zone incentives.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) worked with Triumph for more than a year on the Opportunity Returns incentives, most of which will be paid in tax credits, tax exemptions and grants, department spokesman Andrew Ross said. The department has several tax assistance programs to entice companies to locate to Illinois and offered a number of them to Triumph.
Triumph will receive about $9 million in corporate income tax credits over 10 years. It will receive a $1 million grant because the company is investing in a major expansion. The company will get $1 million to train its employees. It will also receive $4.5 million in investment tax credits and exemptions. East Moline would get a $750,000 grant to partially pay for water and sewer improvements required for the project.
East Moline has already approved a $20 million incentive package for Triumph to pay for an on-site sewage pre-treatment facility, off-site water and sewer improvements and other expenses. The city would need to create a tax-increment financing district, encompassing the proposed site, to generate the money.
In a TIF district, any new revenue created by development goes into a special municipal fund to be used for public infrastructure or rebates to developers.
(Thank God those poor developers are being looked after!)
Quad-Cities officials credited Nancy Mulcahey, Opportunity Returns northwest region manager for the DCEO, for working on the incentive package. She commended local and state officials for responding to Triumph's needs.
(Well, at least they responded to corporate needs, thank goodness for that. What would these poor, poor giant corporations do without massive tax breaks and subsidies from hardworking taxpayers?)
State Sen. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, who couldn't attend the press conference, said over the phone, "We're job-starved. We need the jobs."
(Jobs. Don't bother me with details... all we need to say is the magic word that clouds men's minds and justifies literally anything, no matter the consequences or cost... jobs.)
State Rep. Patrick Verschoore, D-Milan, said in a written statement that government officials should do everything they can to create more jobs.
(There it is again, the fairy dust of politicians... throw "jobs" at people and they act like Dorothy and her pals in the poppy field. Apparently, there's no sin that "jobs" won't excuse.)
State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, addressed the concern of illegal immigrant workers applying for Triumph jobs. "We are going to do our best to make sure legal kids, our kids, get jobs in this plant."
(That's encouraging. Hope this "best" isn't just happy talk. And besides, if a few years down the road Triumph decides they need illegals, they'll get them and you can bet your now worthless farm that no one will make a peep.)
Triumph has not yet bought the proposed site from Moline's RiverStone Group Inc., spokesman Robert Imler said.
(Ah... the "Let's make a deal" phase begins.)
East Moline has an option to buy the land, but it doesn't have to go through with the purchase and Triumph could negotiate a price with RiverStone, assistant city administrator Rich Keehner said.
(Whaddaya bet that no matter who technically buys the land, that they'll pay about 30% more than it's worth? After all, either way, it's just taxpayers who are footing the bill. It's funny money.)
Mr. Hoffman said there would be an opportunity to hire more than 1,000 people at the East Moline plant, depending on how much processing the facility could handle. The company's goal is to process 16,000 hogs a day at the plant.
Let the fun begin.
But meanwhile, those deviants who somehow have the mysterious power to resist the all-powerful "jobs ray" and actually ask questions and talk about things they're not supposed to mention aren't really happy.
At least 12 people, including Ms. Farrell and Silvis Alds. Katherine Cutrer and Bob Zesiger, both 4th Ward, protested the pork plant project Thursday afternoon at the corner of Barstow Road and Illinois 5 in East Moline. They vowed to continue the fight against Triumph because they worry the plant would damage the environment. They wore buttons with red X's over pink pigs and held signs.
Some people waved or honked their horns when they drove by the protesters.
East Moline Ald. Luis Puentes, 2nd Ward, was driving by and stopped at the intersection. "Hello!" Ms. Farrell said, frantically waving her arm and walking toward the alderman's red pickup. "Come on, Mr. Puentes. Back up. Let's talk."
Ald. Puentes kept his window up, ignored her and turned onto Illinois 5.
Triumph plans to build a 620,000-square-foot plant at Barstow Road and 172nd Street North which could employ at least 1,000 people. The $135 million project could also create around 350 construction jobs.
One of the most vocal plant opponents, Dawn Marner, who was unable to attend the protest, said over the phone that the governor's announcement was really sad news for her.
"We're going to be moving," said Mrs. Marner, who lives in unincorporated Rock Island County, nine blocks west of the proposed site. But Mrs. Marner said she and her family would continue to fight against the pork plant.
Other protesters felt the same way as Mrs. Marner. Many residents worry that the plant would encourage hog producers to build large-scale hog farms in the area, although Triumph officials said they don't plan to build any.
(Well, that's kinda meaningless, since it wasn't feared that Triumph would be building them, but that the plant would attract others who would dot the land around the plant with noxious "concentrated farming operations" or CFOs.)
Protesters also worry about the destruction of wetlands, flooding, groundwater contamination from plant waste, an increase in truck traffic, and an increase in illegal immigrant workers.
"I feel the county and city leaders have not listened to both sides," Kathy Hall, of Silvis, said. "It has been proven that the hog processing plants do not benefit the areas" they locate to.
Pete Frenell, who was born in Barstow, lives a mile away from the proposed plant.
"I think the politicians stabbed us in the back," Mr. Frenell said. "If it wasn't for us taxpayers, they wouldn't have that money to throw around. If they have a disaster or spill or something, the ground is contaminated forever and there's nothing they can do about it."
Holding a sign that read, "Resist Corporate Pig$," Caryn Unsicker, of Silvis, said, "I just think it's awful. I'm terribly disappointed in our governor."
"It concerns me in many ways," Lois Kuehling, of Moline, said, while she held a sign saying "Stop Factory Farming. Say No to East Moline Slaughterhouse."
"It's going to destroy the wetlands, the wildlife," she said. "The pollution is going to be astronomical."
"The smell travels many, many miles. I'm worried about trucks that go by. I'm concerned which roads they'll go on," Mrs. Kuehling said. "It's just greed, and our city councils are not informed of the whole truth."
Site preparation could begin next spring, with the plant opening in 2009. It would initially employ 350 and grow to 1,000. The average wage would be $11.75 an hour.
Quad City Development Group president Thom Hart said the project could create 2,900 spin-off jobs and the economic impact could be an estimated $437 million during the first year the plant operates.
Well, if you're the type that likes to make large gambles on investments based on returns premised on the word "could", then you'll love this.
I'm glad we get the chance to pay to train their employees. No company should be expected to have to take care of that on their own. I only wish they had come up with a few million in tax dollars to help pay to advertise and promote pork products. Maybe they're already doing that?
And while we're at it, what else can we do for Triumph? Forgive their taxes, forgive normal building fees, waive sales tax on millions in construction materials... done. Build them specialized sewer treatment facilities and massive sewer and water installations customized for their needs... done.
A cool million to train employees? Done. How about utilities? Couldn't we at least agree to pay those for them for a year or so? The city administrator has already agreed to rename Barstow Rd. to Triumph Parkway or some equally silly thing. Why stop there? Why not rename the town of Barstow "Triumph City"?
Have we agreed to build and pay for heavy duty roads for the tens of thousands of semis which will be going in and out around the clock? Check... got that covered. I don't know, but I just have the nagging feeling that there's more we taxpayers could do.
The closest anyone ever gets to even obliquely addressing plant opponent's concerns is to offer vague assurances that we should all just trust them, that they don't "expect" any problems, or that state officials have it all under control and we shouldn't worry our little heads over such things. The plant enablers know best, and to question them is.. well.. just don't do it.
Really, just how concerned do you think any of the figures involved in getting this plant are about any of the serious and real concerns of those who live in the area? That's right. Less than not at all.
It's your money, your environment, your community, and damn it, they'll be the "deciders", and anyone who doesn't see things their way are just plain crazy. Of course, they never get around to saying WHY, but hey, if you REALLY want to see these people go ballistic, just question their judgment on anything. Same thing for demanding that they answer specific questions or provide information about just what they're signing us all up for.
There will obviously be secondary benefits as hog plant payroll trickles into the economy and a relatively small number of businesses either see their business expand or locate here to service the needs created by the new plant.
Someday, if the day ever comes, I guess the corporation may begin paying taxes as well, which will begin to offset all the millions local and state governments are coughing up.
Anyone else have some more specific benefits which justifies the likely negative impact the plant will have on the area?
As Russell Baker said, "Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things."
I'm sure many are greeting this development as fantastic news.
How do you feel about the entire deal? Love it? Hate it? Or are you utterly indifferent?
Now that it's apparent that the plant is coming, we can only stand by and cross our fingers and hope that the predicted negatives never materialize, or even more important, that if they do, that the public will even find out or be informed.