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Sen. Mike Groene says packing plant is 'aligned for the stars' for North Platte
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Sen. Mike Groene says packing plant is 'aligned for the stars' for North Platte

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Lincoln County’s state senator says he’s working with Gov. Pete Ricketts and legislative leaders to direct something like $75 million of Nebraska’s federal COVID-19 aid to the Sustainable Beef LLC meatpacking project.

If he’s successful, North Platte state Sen. Mike Groene said, that would come from American Rescue Plan funds under the governor’s control rather than shares sent separately to cities, villages, counties and schools.

“No agricultural business like beef has been bottlenecked because of the supply line” since the pandemic started in spring 2020, Groene said recently in personally urging North Platte Planning Commission support for the beef plant.

Because of that, he said, a state contribution to Sustainable Beef’s $325 million financing package would fit the federal requirement that ARP funds be spent on pandemic-related issues.

“But it’s got to be shovel-ready” so work can begin before Washington’s deadline to use COVID-19 aid or send it back, Groene said.

The District 42 senator, whose upcoming 2022 session will be his last under term limits, said he can’t imagine a better economic opportunity for North Platte than opening a meatpacking plant at the edge of Sandhills cattle country.

“I’ve watched a lot of economic development. This one fits North Platte,” Groene told the Planning Commission. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s aligned for the stars.”

He said his work as a farm equipment salesman has often required overnight stays in meatpacking towns like Greeley, Colorado, and Dodge City and Garden City in Kansas.

“They are similar to us. They are a one-industry town with a packing plant. So is Lexington,” Groene said.

“We have an opportunity to make this a two-industry town” with both the Union Pacific Railroad and a beef plant, Groene said. “Those other towns would love that.”

The proposed Lincoln County industrial “rail park” outside Hershey offers  another major economic drawing card, he added.

Families need “an anchor job. This (beef plant) fixes that. That fixes the labor shortage we have in this community, because we’ll have (more) two-income families.”

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