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Arkansas Trying To Entice Cargill To Rebuild Plant

A 35-acre plot of land, tax breaks and other incentives are being offered to the agriculture giant to rebuild a meat packing plant that was all but destroyed by an explosion.

LITTLE ROCK (AP) -- A 35-acre plot of land, tax breaks and other incentives are being offered to agriculture giant Cargill Inc. to rebuild a meat packing plant in Booneville that was all but destroyed by an explosion, Gov. Mike Beebe and the city's mayor said Monday.
 
''We have put together a package from our economic development commission and the city and county are giving some free land and deferred real estate taxes to try to encourage them to rebuild,'' Beebe told members of the Political Animals Club at a luncheon at the governor's mansion.
 
Beebe's office said it would not disclose the amount of the incentives being offered the company to rebuild the Cargill Meat Solutions plant, which was mostly leveled by a fire and series of explosions last month. But Booneville Mayor Jerry Wilkins estimated the incentives being offered from his city are between $700,000 and $1 million.
 
Part of that comes from a 35-acre plot of land adjacent to the existing meat packing plant that the city has offered to the Minneapolis-based company. Wilkins said the city has also offered some tax incentives and breaks on the property's water and sewer bills to the company.
 
''We decided we'd put together something similar to what we'd offer a new company trying to locate here,'' Wilkins said. ''It's hard to get a factory to move in here with 800 jobs that often.''
 
Cargill spokesman Mark Klein said the company has not decided yet whether to rebuild the factory.
 
''Officials have expressed an interest in helping and we appreciate that, but we haven't been able to focus on that quite yet,'' Klein said.
 
The company has offered workers at the plant jobs at other sites and told workers that if they want to relocate, they should apply for jobs at turkey processing operations in Springdale or Dayton, Va., or California, Mo. If Cargill rebuilds, workers would be able to re-apply and will be given their seniority and tenure back.
 
Beebe initially told reporters the state would offer money from his ''quick action closing fund,'' which the Legislature created last year to attract new businesses to the state and help existing ones expand. But Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample later said the state is not offering any of those funds, but is offering money from federal community development block grants administered by the state and other incentives.
 
Beebe said that one thing working in Arkansas' favor is that the freezer section of the 150,000 square foot facility was not destroyed by the fire. Klein said the products in the freezer were still frozen after the fire.
 
The governor said he hasn't received a commitment from the company that it will rebuild and said he's worried that other states will try to lure the firm outside Arkansas.
 
''We're trying to be competitive with other states, but we're trying to do it in a way that measures the number of those jobs and the value of those jobs with our investment,'' Beebe told reporters after the luncheon. ''We don't want to get too heavy with what we offer but we don't want to miss the boat either.''
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