What Jeff Broin’s money couldn’t achieve, the economy apparently has.
Regional pork producer Wholestone Farms announced two years ago that it would spend $500 million to build a hog slaughterhouse in Sioux Falls and bring over a thousand jobs to South Dakota’s biggest metro. Certain rich Sioux Fallsians proposed a ballot measure to stop that project or any other new slaughterhouse from opening in the Queen City of the East and stinking up ethanol magnate Jeff Broin’s office and mansion.
To hedge its bet, Wholestone Farms opened a previously unplanned butcher shop on the site of its propsoed plant in northeast Sioux Falls last October. The ad hoc chop shop was meant to take advantage of a glaring loophole in the initiative that would have allowed existing meat vendors to expand their operations, if voters had approved the moratorium. But big spending from other rich guys and Big Ag and stumping from fickle meatpacker-lover Governor Kristi Noem helped defeat that slaughterhouse moratorium.
But now Wholestone Farms has closed its butcher shop:
The closure of this meager Sioux Falls storefront, along with Wholestone’s merger with an Iowa hog killer and dedication of a $25M USDA grant to expanding its Nebraska slaughterhouse, is sending a clear signal to Mayor Paul TenHaken, who was notably unexcited about this economic development from the start, that Wholestone Sioux Falls ain’t happening:
“Timing is everything in business,” TenHaken. “I think when the time is right, we’ll possibly see that plant expand, but we could also see it not happen either.”
TenHaken said he has not had a lot of communication with Wholestone Foods since the November election. He said market economics have changed since the election.
“I don’t see that plant being built anytime soon,” TenHaken said. “They haven’t communicated with us a lot as a city.”
TenHaken also pointed out building costs for a large pork processing plant have never been higher. He said high construction costs along with the Wholestone merger and agriculture conditions all play a factor [Eric Mayer and Lauren Soulek, “TenHaken Weighs in on Wholestone Butcher Shop Closure,” KELO-TV, 2023.03.22].
One might expect the generally buoyant TenHaken to preach optimism to boost his city’s chances of bringing jobs and money: The economy is tough, but Sioux Falls is still a great place to kill hogs! Great highway access, low business costs, low taxes, low regulation, and hey! Build that plant here in Sioux Falls, and I’ll bet we can find some cash from the city’s economic development funds and from my good friend Governor Noem to help ease your startup costs! One might reach for deeper conspiracy and think that TenHaken can’t let Wholestone go gently south, because without Wholestone, who will pick up the slack in pork production and hand-wrecking, soul-crushing labor in Sioux Falls when Governor Noem’s new “Evil Foreign Governments” bill (that’s the title she picked) morphs into new regulations that will force Chinese-owned meatpacker Smithfield to leave the state?
But TenHaken seems resigned to letting Wholestone go away and make the case for doing business in Iowa and Nebraska instead of South Dakota.