Premium Iowa Pork projects spring reopening of former HyLife plant

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The new owner of the former HyLife plant in Windom, Minn., is looking to resume processing pork in the facility sometime in spring 2024.

In a news release, Premium Iowa Pork, which bought the facility from HyLife for $14 million on June 2, says it is moving into the second phase of planning. For the past four months, it’s been evaluating the plant space. Premium Iowa Pork says it is now focusing on modernizing the plant.

In the statement, company President Dan Paquin said it is removing outdated equipment and infrastructure.

“As we’ve said from the very beginning, we are excited to be a part of the Windom Community and continuing to do what we’ve always done: Bring high-quality pork products to families’ tables,” Paquin said. “With that, we’re moving forward to physically improve the space to create a modern pork processing facility.”

The company has several operations in the northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota region including in Luverne, Minn. It employs more than 900 workers in Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota.

Around 1,000 workers lost their jobs when HyLife closed last summer. About half were on H-2B visas, tied to working at the plant. Many of those workers are believed to have returned home or now work elsewhere under a new H-2B visa.

About one-fifth of Windom’s population was employed at the pork processing plant, and the sudden closure raised concerns over the economic impact on the town of 5,000.

Premium Iowa Pork’s statement does not include specific rehiring plans.

“Retrofitting the facility allows us to be versatile when it comes to future pork production plans,” said Paquin. “Once the space is completely upgraded, our team will be able to make final determinations on plans for operation.”

Windom City Administrator Steve Nasby said the city anticipates the plant will be operational sometime between April and June 2024, with some possible earlier work for startup.

Nasby also reported progress on arrangements to receive state funds authorized by the Legislature before the plant closure to be applied in the event of a shutdown.

In an email Thursday, he said the city finalized its grant agreement for state appropriated funds on Oct. 3, along with executing the loan agreements for the employee housing projects already underway.

Nasby stated the city received the first draw of state funds on Nov. 3, and that “these first funds will be going to Windom Apartments LLC. to pay off contractors who have done work on the buildings and to the city for debt repayment to the Public Facilities Authority on the wastewater treatment plant.”

The city requested $14 million in aid from the state. Windom is using $13 million — about $10 million on the housing project. It allocated another $2 million to repay a loan for the municipal wastewater treatment plant.

About $1 million was used for recruitment efforts to secure a buyer for the pork processing plant, and another $1 million was given to Windom Area Schools to cover the loss of state funding for students leaving the district with their parents as a result of the plant closure.

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