Area Town in Limbo Over Beef Plant Delays

rancher John Hairford
rancher John Hairford

Some people in one area town say they won't hitch their hopes to a new beef plant while its construction stays on hold.  After eleven months of postponing plant construction, people in the Oklahoma panhandle are not holding their breath.

Smithfield Beef blames undesirable market conditions for holding back construction on a 200 million dollar plant near Hooker. A company spokesman says that includes low cattle prices and an insufficient local labor supply. He admits  if things don't improve, building plans could be canceled. If that happens, people in Hooker say the town will survive.

"We'll move on and still find something else, " says business owner Tangi Quesenbury. "If Smithfield doesn't come, another company that does want to come out here."  But some hope the company never breaks ground.

"Sometimes it's not the best thing just because a company is gonna move into your area," says rancher John Hairford. "Sometimes it's not beneficial, sometimes it's a detriment to your area."  Hairford worries Hooker would struggle to handle so many people moving to town so fast.  But while building plans remain stymied, that's an issue one local leader won't worry about.

"Once they come tell us personally this is when we're gonna be here, then we'll gear up and see how it's going to affect the community," says Texas County Commissioner Ted Keeling.

Smithfield says it could take years for the company to decide to whether to go through with the plant.