As a colleague noted recently, there was just a bit of irony in the air when we got notice that Iowa’s 2016 downtown revitalization conference is being held this year in Mason City.
It’s been my experience over the years that one of the best ways to revitalize downtowns, or any other part of town, is to create jobs and economic vitality. It’s what Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa is all about: creating jobs and positive economic activity in Iowa’s rural communities.
But it was in Mason City last month that the city council — under pressure from anti-livestock activists — turned down a new, state-of-the-art pork processing plant. The proposed $240 million Prestage Farms plant would have created 1,000 jobs, with the potential to create many more.
Way beyond jobs
The positive impact of a meat processing plant, like the proposed Prestage facility, goes way beyond new jobs. It reverberates far beyond the town and well into the countryside, according to north-central Iowa Farm Bureau members who were frustrated by the Mason City council’s decision.
A new pork processing plant, they noted, would boost local demand for livestock. That’s important because raising livestock is one of the best avenues for young people in Iowa to gain a solid foothold in agriculture and build up equity in their farms.
We’ve run dozens of articles in the Spokesman over the years about young people who have returned to the farm after college or a few years working in a city. Many, if not most, plan to raise hogs, cattle or poultry.
Those young people are raising their families in rural Iowa. Those families, in turn, strengthen schools, buy from local businesses and bring new vitality to their communities.
A new pork plant, members say, would also help area grain farmers by boosting local demand and raising prices for the corn and soybeans needed to feed livestock.
Prestage, according to news reports, is considering other Iowa communities for a new pork processing plant. The company reported it had heard from 19 Iowa cities and towns interested in the pork plant, including many in the counties surrounding Mason City.
Let’s hope the company is successful on its second try in locating in Iowa. Our state, both our Main Streets and our rural roads, will all benefit.