Rantoul pork plant to reopen

Rantoul pork plant to reopen

RANTOUL – Rantoul's pork-processing plant will reopen.

Trim-Rite, a Carpentersville-based company that also operates a pork-processing plant in that community, has shelved plans to open a facility in DeKalb and instead has selected the Rantoul site.

Rantoul Mayor Neal Williams said he has been told that a formal announcement is expected Friday.

Williams said he had been hesitant about getting his hopes up because of numerous rumors in the past that companies were interested in the plant, only to have them prove to be unfounded.

The latest report, however, is more than rumor. Trim-Rite officials have confirmed they have selected the Rantoul site, which employed about 600 people when it closed in January 2009 after five years of operation.

The Meadowbrook Farms operation was a 200-farmer-member co-op that filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the spring of 2009.

The new plant reportedly will employ 200.

James S. Jendrucczek, president of Trim-Rite, told the Rock River Times that the Rantoul site was selected because it can be up and running six months before the company could have started operations at the DeKalb location.

"It's a bigger facility that allows pork processing and pork slaughtering," Jendrucczek said. "It's an excellent deal, and the plant is only six years old."

Possibly adding to the company's decision not to locate in DeKalb was its controversial location. The Rock River Times quoted several activists, including property owners, concerned about the DeKalb location's proximity to the Kishwaukee River.

Jendrucczek, however, said the Rantoul site is a better fit.

Jendrucczek said the Rantoul plant "is perfectly suited to our needs ... and allows us to begin operations much more quickly."

Trim-Rite project manager Kurt Irelan said the Rantoul facility became available about two weeks ago.

Irelan told the DeKalb Daily Chronicle that the Rantoul site "became interesting for us because it allowed us to not only (possibly) harvest more hogs, but that we could process them on site without having to transport animal carcasses to Carpentersville."

DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen said Trim-Rite evaluated both DeKalb and Rantoul.

"They found Rantoul a (better) place for economic reasons and a place for people to begin the processing, and more rapidly, without having to go through the workshops and the city council meeting."

The Rantoul plant, built for $24 million, comprises 120,000 square feet and was considered a state-of-the-art facility at the time it closed. It processed 150 million pounds of pork a year.

The 200 cooperative farmer members contributed $13 million to start the plant in 2004 while bank loans amounted to $19.7 million from Stearns Bank of Illinois, loans that were guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Stearns Bank was owed a just over $14 million and CIT was owed about $2 million at the time of the plant's closure.

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