Meat processing plant will revive failing community

Dec 2, 2011

A 300,000-square-foot meat processing plant is scheduled to begin construction in early 2012 near the small town of Yerington, NV. Officials with Walker River Meat Processing said the facility could employ up to 700 when running at full capacity.

“We aren’t building a slaughter plant, we are building a meat-processing plant,” CEO Vincent Estell said.

If everything goes as planned, Estell said the plant is expected to begin processing by mid 2013 and be running at 100 percent by 2015. The plant will process up to 2,000 head of cattle, 2,500 pigs and 1,000 sheep and goats daily once operating at full capacity.

The estimated cost for the facility is more than $100 million.

The plant will be in Lyon County, which has had the highest unemployment rate in Nevada over the last several years, hovering above 15 percent since the beginning of 2009. Lyon County’s unemployment rate has outpaced the national rate by as much as 11 percent. According to some, Estell may find qualified employees somewhat scarce.

The plant will require about 150 workers once it becomes operational in the second or third quarter of 2013, Estell says. The first round of employees will be trained by meat processing industry experts and, in turn, will train additional hires.

Many of the proposed workers will come from neighboring areas, such as Fallon, Silver Springs and Fernley.

Estell says Walker River Meat Processing plans to bus in workers, similar to local mining companies, in order to reduce congestion on roadways leading into the facility.

“I want to keep car traffic off the roads, and I want to make sure the workers can save as much money as they can,” Estell says. “Plus, when they are in the bus, I’ll know whether I have got a full crew or not.”

According to a written description, the Walker River Meat Processing Plant project is proposed for development on approximately 1,712 acres.

The location of the proposed development is currently zoned for industrial use. Because the plant intends to reuse its wastewater in fields that it would plant on site, the county would have to approve a special-use permit and zone the area for agriculture. In September, the Lyon County Board of Commissioners sent a proposed ordinance that would change the zoning from industrial to agricultural back to the county’s planning department because of concerns about how it would affect future industrial development.

Planning Director Rob Loveberg said the subject property is zoned ME and must be changed to M-1 zoning before it can begin.

Estell said, financially, the company would pump about $50 million overall into the community once the project is fully implemented. According to Estell, the median annual salary for workers at the plant would be around $36,000. The annual per capita income for the county from 2005 through 2009 was estimated at $19,467.

Asked about the property, Estell said the company has an agreement with the owner on acquiring the property but won’t close on a purchase until it secures the needed approvals/agreements.

Estell said there is a conceptual site plan for development of the multi-species meat processing plant, which would feature state-of-theart technology, including waste and animal byproducts used for on site power generation and a green design for buildings.

The written summary for the proposal calls for a primary meat processing facility consisting of construction of a processing building of around 150,000 square feet separated into three main components.

The first component would consist of a 60,000-squarefoot area for the processing of up to 2,000 hogs per day, with space to expand to 150,000 square feet that could process up to 5,000 hogs per day and including a kill floor, a quick freeze freezer, a storage freezer, a processing and packaging area, a prepared meals kitchen, smoke rooms, a freezer storage area, and loading docks.

The second component would consist of a 60,000square-foot area for the processing of up to 1,000 cattle per day, with space to expand to 150,000 square feet to process up to 2,500 per day and consisting of similar facilities as the hog processing area.

The third component of the proposed site plan is a 30,000-square-foot area for the processing of up to 500 sheep and 500 goats per day, along with a kosher kill area for the processing of kosher and other religious meat products, and with space to expand to 75,000 square feet to process up to 1,250 goats and 1,250 sheep daily. This component consists primarily of a kill floor with freezers and processing done in the main meat processing building, but segregated from all other species, the written proposal says.

The proposal calls for sorting corrals and sorting pens adjacent to the main processing plant building for each species, planned on a concrete slab.

A rendering plant for offal and bones is planned for near the main building and adjacent to that, a pet food plant is proposed.

Warehouses, storage and equipment barns and hydroponic growing barns are also planned, as is an onsite meat cutters apprenticeship program, with training and hiring on a local preference basis.

A railroad spur from the existing railroad line to the processing plant loading dock is also part of the proposal.

The plant will not only be built according to USDA standards, but also European Union Food Regulations and Standards, according to Estell. This will allow producers to sell products internationally. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor