Friday, October 7, 2011

Could a goat slaughterhouse provide the solution for economically depressed Lyon County?

Wabuska, Nevada is an unincorporated outpost in Lyon County. Currently, it is perhaps best known for Linda's Wabuska Bar and its location roughly halfway between Silver Springs and Yerington. If a Modesto-based developer has his way, it may soon become home to a multi-species meat processing plant.

A Reno Gazette Journal article details the plant that would handle beef, pork, sheep, and even goats. In the article, Vincent Estell, the project's developer, waxes rhapsodic about the qualities that make Wabuska the perfect location for the Walker River Meat Processing Plant. Estell cites the area's proximity to highways, lack of downwind neighbors, railroad access, and geothermal power as selling points for developers. But the benefits are not entirely one-sided.

Lyon County has had the highest unemployment rate in Nevada over the last several years, hovering above 15% since the beginning of 2009. Lyon County's unemployment rate has outpaced the national rate by as much as 11%.

In one of the hardest hit areas of the country, any proposed development would appear promising. If Estell can actually meet his lofty goals, the meat processing plant could be a boon to the nearby residents of Yerington and Silver Springs.

Estell believes that his proposed processing plant could employ up to 350 people during the construction phase. Another 300 would be able to start working in the facility right away, with yet another 300 employed within a year. According to the US Census Bureau, Lyon County was home to 51,980 residents in the 2010 Census. However, the two closest Census Designated Places, Yerington and Silver Springs have a combined population of 8,344 people (3,048 and 5,296 people respectively). The addition of 600 long-term jobs in the area would have a significant impact on the local economy.

In fact, according to an article published in August by the Meat Trade News Daily, Estell estimated that the plant could pump up to $50 million into the local economy by the time it is fully constructed and operational. Additionally, Estell has said that the median annual salary for workers at the plant would be around $36,000. In a county where the annual per capita income from 2005 through 2009 was estimated at $19,467, this would seem to be a welcome addition to the region.

So what's the holdup? The location of the proposed development is currently zoned for industrial use. Because the plant intends to reuse its waste-water in fields that it would plant on site, the County would have to approve a special-use permit and zone the area for agriculture. In September, the Lyon County Board of Commissioners sent a proposed ordinance that would change the zoning from industrial to agricultural back to the County's planning department because of concerns about how it would affect future industrial development.

In an era where green development and sustainability are buzzwords, it seems slightly strange that a proposal for a development to make use of its own waste would be a sticking point. But perhaps Lyon County's leaders are simply trying to look out for the best interests of the county going forward. A KOLO news story makes reference to a number of empty parking lots that were supposed to serve developments that never materialized. It is likely that at least one of those developments in the past made promises similar to those currently being made by Estell, only to fail to follow through after the County made efforts to accommodate the developers.

The proposed meat processing plant would undoubtedly make a positive impact on Lyon County - if it can live up to its promises. The problem for the County's leaders lies in quickly making the necessary legal changes to get the development off the ground while ensuring they don't spend valuable resources on a project that goes nowhere. The clock on the project might be running however, as the Reno Gazette Journal notes that the location of the plant has already shifted to Lyon County from Lassen County, California. If Victor Estell can't get the commitment he needs from Lyon County, he might pack up his promises and head to the next rural county in need of economic development.


KB said...

This seems like a win-win situation. I really hope it works out for Lyon County.

I am not well versed in local zoning laws, but would it be possible for the county to zone just the area around the meat packing plant as agricultural? That way the rest of the land nearby could still be zoned as industrial and would be welcoming to future industry. Maybe industrial developers do not want to come into an area with agricultural zoning nearby? I am not sure why developers would feel this way though.

The article about this project mentioned approval may not happen until 2012. I agree that Lyon County should move on this quickly to ensure it does not miss out on a great economic opportunity.

princesspeach said...

I agree with you KB. With the economy the way it is, I would think small towns would want this kind of development. From where I am from, zoning is up to the City Council. While the planning commission can make recommendations, ultimately the council decides how to zone. Last year the council zoned a piece of farmland surrounded by other farmland as industrial to make room for a station. However, since this is Nevada, it might be different though.

Scarecrow said...

Rural communities always seem to have people who argue that a development shouldn't be built because previous attempts to do something failed, too. Developing a successful business is hard. Most businesses fail. But I think that's less noticeable in large population centers, where the failures are forgotten because of the few successes. Maybe some areas don't have the population density to support a substantial sized business. But you have to figure that if you have a really good idea; people will come.

Anonymous said...

It is Aug. 2012, and tomorrow the commissioners will vote on the special use permit. Meat Processing plants are responsible for a vast amount of pollution across America. The reason they are moving west, is because the west lacks legislation, rules, and regulations to keep these large meat processors, from creating an environmental tragedy. They pollute rivers, and ground water, they choke the earth with horrendous amounts of manure, not to mention the cruelty issues. Before you think this is such a great idea, do your home work. said...

P.S. its not a goat slaughterhouse, its a multi species, cow, pig, sheep and a small amount of goats. 50,000 animals standing for slaughter at any time, and 28,000 hogs being raised on the premise.

Anonymous said...

It is the end of 2015 and nothing has happened. No land has been purchased, as a matter of fact, Vincent Estell pretty much disappeared after he got the nod for this project. I am informed that he is back again, wanting to renew his special use permit. I will be at the meeting in opposition. This man has wasted our time. And hopefully the commissioners won't let him promise the moon, and then do his disappearing act. I am for development in our community. This year, after a four year drought in our area, and threats of water curtailment for the farmers and also for city and well users. I think it would be incredibly irresponsible to allow this kind of business to come in, and use water resources, that are no longer viable. This area cannot support such a venture as Mr. Estell is proposing. Jobs in meat packing are largely held by immigrate workers. This venture will not put this rural area to work. We do not have enough housing, to accommodate these workers, and there is just a host of other problems associated with large meat packing. Not to mention that there is not enough livestock, that isn't already owned by the big 10 meat packers. This information is readily available, if only the commissioners would do their homework. This kind of development, could put Lyon county out of business.