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Regional Hog Farms Propose $500M Plant, 1,110 Jobs in Sioux Falls; Mayor TenHaken Not Excited

South Dacola quite aptly notes the strange reaction of Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken to the announcement of a huge economic development project in Sioux Falls.

Wholestone Farms, a producer-owned pork company that slaughters pigs in Fremont, Nebraska, says it’s going to spend over $500 million to build a new bacon factory in Sioux Falls and create over a thousand jobs:

Wholestone Farms, an entity owned by regional pork producers, plans to build a more than $500 million pork processing facility in Sioux Falls.

Wholestone has exercised an option to purchase 170 acres in northeast Sioux Falls near Benson Road and Interstate 229, near the new Gage Brothers Concrete Materials location.

Assuming necessary permits are granted and construction stays on track, the facility would open in 2025 and initially employ more than 1,100 people.

“Wholestone is made up of roughly 200 family farms, pork producers, farmers throughout the Midwest, and 70 of those owners live within a 50-mile radius of Sioux Falls,” Wholestone CEO Scott Webb said.

“We need another plant. The Sioux Falls plant is a more ideal location for the ownership group” [Jodi Schwan, “Pork Producer-Owned Company Plans to Build $500M Sioux Falls Facility,” Sioux Falls Business, 2021.06.14].

Usually when some big investor makes such an announcement, South Dakota elected officials fall all over themselves to welcome and claim credit for the economic expansion. But Mayor Paul TenHaken came out and poured tepid water on the proposal:

“To be frank [oh! get it? pork factory? franks?!? hilarious!], we are facing historic housing challenges right now,” Mayor Paul TenHaken said in a statement provided to SiouxFalls.Business.

“In this unique environment, our employers are also facing critical hiring challenges as we have strategically added thousands of new jobs in recent months. Under normal circumstances, the addition of 1,000 more jobs would be an enormous win for the city of Sioux Falls, yet these are not normal circumstances. While I have been and continue to be supportive of value-added agriculture investments in our region, I have a duty to note the challenges currently being faced within our community at this time” [Schwan, 2021.06.14].

South Dacola finds Mayor Paul’s lack of enthusiasm for big business shocking:

Instead trying to help this plant find workers, it seems Paul is trying to defend his welfare queens from Communist China, international companies like Amazon (who pay no federal taxes) and South Korean investors. What is Paul afraid of? That this locally owned business will pay better than his foreign welfare friends? Or that more immigrants will come to town to work there? How can you brag about growth then poo poo it when local producers are doing it and not asking for handouts?

…While having another packing plant in Sioux Falls may not be ideal, it just might be so successful it will close down the communist owned stinkhole downtown. Still baffled by Paul’s resistance [Scott Ehrisman, “Locally Owned Pork Producers Building Plant Without Government Handouts?South Dacola, 2021.06.15].

Ehrisman refers here to Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods, Sioux Falls’s current big meat employer. I’d sure hate to think that Mayor Paul is succumbing to the bunker mentality and trying discourage competition in the bustling Sioux Falls marketplace.


  1. Ryan 2021-06-17 08:51

    I am not necessarily a fan of paul, but I think it’s at least plausible that the explanations for his concerns are not a secret code for anything nefarious – he could just be genuinely conscious of the possible struggles that come with a city growing too quickly. Could be a scumbag in the pocket of evil foreigners… but occam’s razor and all that…

  2. Guy 2021-06-17 09:17

    I have mixed feelings on this one. I do support cooperative-owned businesses, but, I do understand where the mayor is coming from. You have to have affordable housing for the workers required for these jobs. Right now, the state lacks affordable housing for most workers who earn a low salary or hourly wage. You also have to ensure the infastructure can handle that many workers, including schools. A few years back, a company out of Lethbridge, Alberta wanted to build a huge slaughterhouse plant in Great Falls, Montana without researching how the city had the lack of affordable housing and infrastructure in place to support an influx of 3,000 workers. The people of Great Falls came to their senses and successfully kept the plant from building east of the city. Right now, they are looking at much smaller cooperative-owned operations in the region, on a even smaller scale then this one announced for Sioux Falls. I, myself, do not support large slaughterhouses due to the factors I listed above and the risk they pose to our environment and ecology.

  3. Whitless 2021-06-17 09:42

    Housing is definitely an issue, especially in the price range that meat packing workers can afford. Sourcing workers is also an issue. Smithfield is constantly advertising for workers, and the Amazon distribution center will also be competing for workers that are in short supply. Maybe by 2025, the estimated completion date for the factory, the city can accommodate this type of low skill worker growth, but I certainly understand mayor TenHaken’s tepid response.

  4. Dicta 2021-06-17 09:56

    He provided a reasonable justification for his nervousness. I don’t understand the critique here.

  5. Scott Ehrisman 2021-06-17 10:29

    The point is simple, PTH has never made comments like this when it comes to CJ Foods or Amazon coming to town (who are both getting millions in tax subsidies, rebates, etc.) but when a locally owned plant comes in, he seems concerned. And I agree with you that he should be concerned, but where was the concern with these other entities? I have been warning city officials for several years that handing out all these tax subsidies to developers to bring in jobs would eventually bite us in the butt, and those chickens are starting to roost.

  6. Mark Anderson 2021-06-17 11:59

    Hey, put it next to 29 and 90, compete with Sioux City for the smell. Although I’m sure all areas of the city will compete for it.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-06-17 13:08

    If Dicta finds my critique unclear, I haven’t done my job. Demotion from blogger in chief to assistant blogger. ;-)

    Let me take another swing: when have we ever heard a mayor respond to the announcement of a new employer, one that will bring over a thousand jobs, by putting the jobs in a dependent clause and putting concerns that we don’t have enough workers or housing in the independent clause? Things were just as tight when Amazon announced it was coming to employ a thousand-some Sioux Fallsians, and city leadership was all rah-rah about that. We didn’t hear anyone in power say, yeah, jobs would be nice, but I don’t know if Amazon will be able to find them, and I don’t know if those workers will be able to find anywhere good to live. I thought mayors were in constant business-boosting mode: New jobs?! You bet! We can fill ’em! Our town is growing! Every company should follow this company and come make our town even bigger!

    Review TenHaken’s statement on Amazon in December, right alongside the boosterism from Thune and Noem:

    Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), Gov. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and Mayor Paul TenHaken also shared comments praising Amazon’s decision to open a center in South Dakota.

    Senator John Thune: “Today’s announcement serves as a testament to the success of South Dakota’s business-friendly environment. This distribution facility will bring numerous, high-paying jobs and millions of dollars in investment to the city of Sioux Falls and the rest of the region. I am proud of the state’s economic progress and infrastructure investments that have allowed businesses to thrive.”

    Governor Kristi Noem: “South Dakota is open for business, and this commitment has put our state in the position to welcome Amazon to Foundation Park. Amazon is investing in South Dakota with 1,000 jobs, including excellent benefits, which will help fuel our state’s growth for the next generation. So on behalf of the entire state, I want to welcome Amazon to South Dakota.”

    Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken: “We are proud to have been selected by Amazon as their next fulfillment center location. Amazon’s decision to invest in our community reflects the company’s confidence in Sioux Falls’ economic climate and excellent workforce. The team at Amazon has been incredible to work with, and we are excited to welcome them to Sioux Falls and to help make this partnership a win-win for many years to come” [, press release, 2020.12.18].

    Amazon is coming this September; Wholestone Farms doesn’t plan to open until 2025. There’s less time for Sioux Falls to resolve its current housing and labor shortage before Amazon needs workers than for Wholestone, but TenHaken provided text for Amazon’s own press release, all positive. He expressed no nervousness.

    What’s going on here? Did Amazon absorb all the slack in Sioux Falls labor and housing, and now Sioux Falls has no room for new employers looking to open four years from now?

    Dicta, does that clarify the critique?

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-06-17 13:11

    I’d say an environmental critique would support TenHaken’s caution, but TenHaken isn’t critiquing big ag and our obsession with CAFOs; he’s focusing on labor and housing availability. And if I’m mayor of a big city and going public, uh oh, my town doesn’t have enough workers or housing to support a business that plans to open here in 2025, aren’t I knocking the legs out from under my economic development recruiters by sending a signal to every potential expander or relocator that Sioux Falls can’t meet their business needs?

  9. chris 2021-06-17 14:02

    lol now that the areas south and east of that site have half-million dollar homes all bought and packed in, yeah sure, build that thing. Why not? Robots can’t get covid and strike. Isn’t this the animal slaughtering business planned and rumored about during Huether’s term? Or was that something more like a pony killing plant?

  10. Dicta 2021-06-17 14:35

    It’s a weird claim that things were “just as tight” when Amazon moved in, considering Amazon just removed, what, 1000 bodies from an already small employment market? And at least they can claim that Amazon is starting in the midst of economic recovery when a fair number of people who were laid off during the pandemic have a chance to find work. I’m sorry, I just don’t think this is a great argument.

  11. Whitless 2021-06-17 14:50

    It could be that the mayor and city developers prefer new residents with higher paying jobs. However, that possibility holds up only if businesses like Amazon pay higher wages and benefits than meat packing plants. If that is not true, then the wisdom of financial incentives given by the city for Amazon to locate here is questionable.

    Meat packing and processing doesn’t necessarily add to the economic growth of a community. In a 2005 study, one of the conclusions was “that expansion in meat packing and processing has a negative effect on overall wage growth and slows employment growth in other sectors of the host county economy. There is some evidence that the slower wage growth swamps the faster employment growth so that aggregate income grows more slowly.” See Measuring the Impact of Meat Packing and Processing Facilities in the Nonmetropolitan Midwest: A Difference-in-Differences Approach (available online at Iowa State University).

  12. John Dale 2021-06-17 14:51

    With some slight modifications to the mask ordinance, problem solved!

  13. Donald Pay 2021-06-17 15:30

    I can’t be sure, but it may be that the proposed site is on a relic native prairie. If so, that area should be preserved as is, I know there is a native prairie out there by the wastewater treatment plant, and it seems that the description of the location is close to that plant. Overhead images I’ve seen of the site sure look like it could be part of the native prairie, or an extension of it, that I found out there in the summer of 1974.

  14. Mark Anderson 2021-06-17 16:21

    Right on the way to Renner Donald? Maybe they can supply Renner meats, the only meat I ever eat now is Spitzmer or as my family calls it Spituma. A few bites every now and then is enlivening.

  15. John 2021-06-17 16:36

    Ha! Ha! Ha1 Ha! Residential property values south and east of the proposed site will tank. County auditors and commissioners need to put that in their property tax projections. Maybe Blackrock will buy out the homes, while they are purchasing gobs of single family homes at 20 to 50% of appraised value – further creating the rentier class.

    No offense, Mike, but NW Iowa reeks from the pig CAFOs. It’s likely that for most folks most of those small towns are unlivable. They may consider an alternative plant site between the FSD, Worthington, MN, Sioux City, IA triangle – as it’s an industrial agricultural sacrificial beaten zone.

    The FSD mayor has reason to fret. Amazon employees have 150% annual turnover due to the legacy of Bezos crap-on-workers HR management. Amazon is concerned it will ‘run out of employees’ (greater fools) putting up their ‘carry around a piss bottle’ abuse. The mayor needs to fret about where FSD will employ those 500 ex-Amazon employees annually. The governess should fret about paying them workers compensation and or unemployment insurance. Another FSD packing plant with 1000 employees that, to paraphrase the governess, ‘don’t look or act like us’ – certainly won’t vote republican in block – while demanding community services (roads, schools, water, sewer, etc.) The republicants faux economic development models are cratering on them – every bit as much as their thoughtless border/immigrant xenophobia has run-off the tourism industry workers. In some South Dakota motels the visitor has the privilege of paying rent AND cleaning one’s room.

    On second thought, the mayor should immediately seek to double the sizes of the Amazon facility and proposed packing plant – in order to hasten the day to turn FSD democratic blue. Dripping sarcasm . . .

    Whitless nailed it – if packing plants brought economic nirvana then Huron, which had 4; Lexington, NE; Austin, MN; Sioux City, IA; etc., et al. would be the crown jewels of the economic realm. Better solution: invest in Beyond Meat.

  16. John 2021-06-17 16:44

    Alternatively, seriously, the South Dakota politicians should consider putting the plant at South Dakota CAFO AG U – in Brookings! There are boundless acres available northwest of the campus, and may include some the campus farms.
    Seriously. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Let them practice and live with what they profess.

  17. John 2021-06-17 16:53

    Sometimes the quips write themselves.
    That Sioux Falls paper website blairs, “Southeastern Sioux Falls will get a new 3-story health center by 2023”.
    Perhaps the health center’s major research and treatment will be the human effects of long term breathing of air emissions from northeast Sioux Falls packing plants.
    Forgive me. It’s the eve of a 3-day weekend.

  18. Dave Baumeister 2021-06-17 18:08

    Wholesome Farms would not be doing this if they knew they would have trouble fining employees. No business would. And that means they are going to have a place that is more desirable at which to work than the other places (like Smithfield), which is all good for the economy in Sioux Falls. It will mean that other places need to step up their game in regard to employees or close. At best, it will mean that businesses will improve their pay/benefits/conditions, and more people will be coming to Sioux Falls (if housing is needed, it will be built). At worse, it will only mean closures, but these closures won’t come with the usual net loss of jobs. The closures will be the result of bad business practices. All in all, it is a win for the people and city of Sioux Falls. Maybe there is something else of which I am not aware, but I suspect the mayor knows this will make his main supporters, who got rich off paying crappy wages, upset. I will wait for him to prove me wrong.

  19. Arlo Blundt 2021-06-17 18:48

    Well…the Sioux Falls Mayor is being a realist…another slaughterhouse isn’t going to do much for the economy…given the smell and the social problems it is likely a wash….and the “affordable housing” shortage will continue. “Affordable” means rent or mortgage and other housing costs (utilities, insurance) at 35% of household income minus medical expense. Nobody is building housing which is affordable for entry level workers as we’ll find in the hog killing plant. These workers will be looking for the cheapest available housing. These workers are going to work in the plant to put together a “grub stake” and when they’ve enough money to meet immediate needs, they will move on, if another slightly better opportunity presents itself. Its a dynamic labor and housing market and developers do not build for it. Somehow they will live in older, sub standard existing housing or somehow make their own housing. Lots of trailers are on the way.

  20. Guy 2021-06-17 21:18

    I think if we learned anything from the pandemic is: that we need to slow down in life.
    That include Economic Development. We all need to take a step back for the welfare of our communities. We need to begin to take a breather and look at things in a more logical and reasonable manner. We need to plan and coroborate better, rather than just trying to make it a political tit-for-tat. We need to demand from our leaders to stop inviting everything in at once just for the sake of money and booming economic development. Instead, we need to pull back and demand our leaders adhere to thinking about the welfare of their communities first, especially here in South Dakota. I would smaller, locally owned business development in all industry sectors, especially: COOPERATIVE BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT in our small, rural communities. Co-ops are member-owned, community-minded businesses. I worked in Cooperative Development for 4 years in Montana and we assisted in the development of co-op grocery stores, co-op farms, co-op slaughterhouses, housing co-ops and let’s not forget credit unions (financial co-ops).

  21. Guy 2021-06-17 21:45

    A large part of what we did in Cooperative business development was first: EDUCATION. We had to educate them about how a cooperative business was legally structured before we ever fielded a community study to find out if they wanted to form a co-op. One of the biggest myths that surprisingly exists in certain segments of American Society to do this day is that co-ops are “communist.” They are certainly NOT communist. Co-ops are NOT government-controlled businesses as you find in communist regimes. Instead, co-ops are very much part of our capitalist economic system. They are structured as self-sustaining businesses responsible to fulfilling products and services to their member-owners. The difference is SERVICE TO MEMBERS & COMMUNITY is the PRIORITY over profits. Co-ops first priority is to service their members and it’s not about how much more profit they can bring in as opposed to other types of businesses. All members of a co-op are shareholders of that business and they are all allowed only one common voting stock in the business…one member = one vote.

  22. Erica 2021-06-18 20:51

    Everyone working at CCP owned Smithfield will have a chance of working same job but for a better company who will treat employees fairly, offer better wages, and not be emboldened to a foreign company. It’s a win for Smithfield’s employees AND the city with Wholestone Foods coming here. Maybe even the river will get a chance to be cleaned up and STAY that way.

  23. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-06-19 08:36

    Guy, not one elected official in this state is going to say, “Yes, we need to slow down our economic development.”

  24. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-06-19 08:39

    Donald and John get me thinking that they are on the right money trail. If the proposed site is on undeveloped prairie, I suspect the moneyed powers behind TenHaken aren’t whispering, “Paul! Save the grass!” I suspect the plant sits in an area that’s on the land developers’ 5-/10-/20-year plans for new subdivisions and urban sprawl, or at least close by in the path of the prevailing winds.

  25. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-06-19 08:53

    So I check the map: near I-229 and Benson Road, near the new Gage Brothers Concrete site, about three miles north and east of Smithfield. I-229, Benson Road, and the Big Sioux River for a rough triangle there that on the satellite image appears mostly undeveloped. West of the site, across 229, are small-industry sites and a trailer-parky neighborhood. North of Benson is a combo of undeveloped land and more industrial sites.

    Given the existing use of the land around that undeveloped chunk, would housing developers want to put new housing there? It doesn’t seem like a great place to put fancy houses, but one could argue that a housing development north and south of Benson Road right at that prime I-229 onramp would be a great place for some workforce housing.

    There’s more industry just south of the river toward Rice St—Ace Ready Mix, TCC Materials, Myrl and Roy’s Paving, dusty dirty outfits you might not want your McMansion right next to… but there’s also Great Bear Ski Valley and, a couple miles south, Washington High School. The map shows housing pushing north from the school. That area could be very attractive to housing developers. Would that affect the calculus for welcoming a packing plant to the northwest?

  26. Donald Pay 2021-06-19 09:22

    Cory, I don’t know for sure where the project site is, actually, but near where they say it is and where some articles have said it is, it is proximal to on directly on a hillside near the wastewater treatment plant where there was (at least in 1974) a 20 or so acre native prairie remnant. I just want to make sure this prairie is preserved.

    At some point there was an environmental statement done on the waste water treatment plant at which it should have been documented. It was disclosed directly to Winegarden, who was the city commissioner in charge of the waste water plant at that point in 1974 or 1975. Winegardern was kind of a flake, though, so who knows what happened I know at one point the city did some work that disrupted part of the prairie. When I would visit the city, which I haven’t done in 15-16 years, I would drive by to check on it. I wonder if someone from the biology department at Augie would have knowledge about this site. My research was done for the bio department there under a grant from the Nature Conservancy.

    I’m not sure what I think of the project as a whole, but I’d oppose it if it destroys a prairie remnant.

  27. Porter Lansing 2021-06-19 10:26

    Where’d the “pink slime” go?

    Dakota Dunes is the optimum spot for a slaughter house, isn’t it Chairman Lederman?

  28. Richard Schriever 2021-06-19 13:41

    Is Wholestone a union shop – or “right to work’? Given that it is owned by a group of farmers – I would guess there is no unionization in their plants. I wouldn’t be too quick to assume it will be better to Smithfield. Might even be even more of a benefit free hell hole.

  29. Arlo Blundt 2021-06-19 21:35

    well…sorry Cory, but “workforce housing” is a concept without a reality. Without substantial (50%?, my speculation. could be higher)government funding, there’s no developer willing to expend the money, time, and talent to build family homes for slaughterhouse workers 0r anyone else with a household income of $40,000.. And no bank to write the paper.I have no idea what government agency on the federal level would gaurantee the loans…not even Fannie Mae.

  30. Guy 2021-06-21 21:10

    Cory, no elected candidates may say that now, but, we need to start supporting candidates that advocate SMART economic growth based on well-thought out planning and SUSTAINABILITY for everyone in our state. There is such a thing as too much booming economic development – that not well thought-out – leads to overwhelming the infrastructure of a community lowering everyone’s standard of living. The only people who benefit from an over-booming economy that overwhelms a community’s infrastructure are the ones making the big bucks at the corporations. Many of those corporate leaders and the politicians who support them do not live in the communities their businesses serve. It’s not fair to the citizens of these communities to shoulder all the burden of an overwhelmed infrastructure. This is why I support more investment into cooperative business development and more smaller co-ops that better serve the economic and financial interests of their member-owners and their respective communities they serve.

    Arlo, their is a solution to the housing problem: HOUSING CO-OPS. True housing cooperatives would be funded by the people who would invest and live in them. Montana has started a successful housing co-op in Hamilton.

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