Cody Gets “Beefy Investment” To Revitalize Regional Industry | Big Horn Radio Network | Wyoming

Cody Gets “Beefy Investment” To Revitalize Regional Industry

Written by on October 27, 2020

Forward Cody has received a $2.2 million grant from the Economic Development Administration for the construction of Wyoming’s first USDA-inspected slaughter facility in over four decades.

The new 12,000 square foot facility will allow Wyoming Legacy Meats to process 75 head of beef per day and add an additional 50 jobs to the region over the next five years.

The grant was announced at a Tuesday press conference at Cody’s Holiday Inn. On hand at the announcement were Mayor Matt Hall, Wyoming House District 24 Representative Sandy Newsome, and representatives from the offices of Senator John Barrasso and US Representative Liz Cheney.

Mayor Hall opened the conference, vaunting the “cultural, spiritual, and historical legacy” of the beef industry in Cody and northwest Wyoming.

James Klessens, President and CEO of Forward Cody, had the pleasure of introducing two officials from Washington D.C. (a first in his 22-year career) who came to Cody for the announcement: Joel Frushone, Director of the Office of External Affairs and Communications with the EDA, and Anthony Foti, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Assistant Secretary for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Both men have been traveling across the country as they continue to support the EDA’s “opportunity zones,” part of which is the $2 million dollar grant for the construction of the new facility. They took particular enjoyment in being in Wyoming to present this EDA grant.

“It is great to be the multiplier on that last mile to complete this project, get some shovels in the ground,  and build this thing as quickly as possible. This is all great news. Congratulations,” Foti said as he praised the collaboration that led to this development.

Grants like this are “not easy to get,” as Foti put it. But it was the strength of the application and its impact on the entire region that ultimately led to this sizeable amount.

This funding has been matched by a loan of $553,108 thru Pinnacle Bank of Cody and an additional $400,000 from Wyoming Legacy Meats. Forward Cody will build and own the new facility, which will be leased by Legacy Meats for a 20-year minimum.

Representative Newsome shared statistics about the beef industry in Wyoming in celebration of the impact this new regional plant will have on the Bighorn Basin and Wyoming as a whole:

  • Agriculture is Wyoming’s third-largest industry, generating nearly $1.75 billion annually to the state’s economy
  • 63% of that annual amount comes from livestock receipts, with beef cattle being by far the largest revenue generator
  • 80% of that annual amount  – $868 million – comes from the beef industry alone
  • Hay is the second-largest agricultural commodity, which mostly goes to feed Wyoming’s beef cattle
  • Approximately 660 thousand calves  – 90 thousand from the Bighorn Basin – are marketed every year thru livestock auctions and private sales

Newsome lamented that most of these cattle are then transported to feedlots in Nebraska, where they are processed by a handful of large corporations. The days of regional plants have disappeared, which has caused beef to “become a commodity, and our ranchers to become price takers.”

A study in which Newsome participated determined that small, regional plants were Wyoming’s best option moving forward in the beef industry. Now, Cody will play a significant role in revitalizing the industry and economy for the Bighorn Basin, something “near and dear” to Newsome’s heart.

Last to speak were Wyoming Legacy Meat Owners, Frank and Caety Schmidt. They embarked to build a larger regional processing plant after they lost control of their cattle at the point of sale. Once lost, their cattle would be given the steroids and hormones that they deliberately do no administer.

No more of that. Now, it will be, as Frank Schmidt put it “neighbors serving neighbors.”

“We will control our cattle from conception to consumption,” Schmidt said. “(When) we get this thing built, I think it’s going to wonders for the ranchers, local restaurants, regional restaurants, and the individuals who trust the people to grow their meat a specific way. They can have their neighbor’s meat.”

The new facility will allow them to meet the increased demand for their services. Wyoming Legacy Meats already independently markets beef from 10 regional ranchers, which a much higher demand than what they can accommodate at their current plant.

It’s a significant step for Cody, the Bighorn Basin, and the regional beef industry. Furthermore, it’s an investment in Cody’s opportunity corridor.

Both Frushone and Foti expressed their enthusiasm for the development potential in Cody, and hope to make several similar visits in the years to come.

Construction of the new 12 thousand square foot USDA-inspected slaughter and processing plant will begin in Spring 2021, and be finished and operational by next fall.


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