Meatpacking officials visit Clovis

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

Mum is the word from Clovis officials on the possibility a Wisconsin-based meatpacker is considering a plant in eastern New Mexico.

The Clovis area is one of two sites being considered for a plant that could employ up to 2,500 people, according to published reports by newspapers in Kansas and Oklahoma. The other proposed site is between Hooker and Tyrone in the Oklahoma Panhandle, an Oklahoma mayor said.

Clovis and New Mexico state officials said Monday they’ve visited with representatives from Smithfield Beef, but declined to provide details.

Smithfield officials could not be reached for comment on Monday. A media relations official earlier this month said Clovis was not being considered for a facility.

But Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas said Monday representatives from Smithfield have visited Clovis. Thomas said he was unable to divulge the specific reason why the beef company officials were in Clovis. “I am bound by a confidentiality agreement,” Thomas said.

Thomas said company officials are working with Chase Gentry, executive director of the Clovis Industrial Development Corp.

Gentry could not be reached Monday for comment.

Clovis Mayor David Lansford also confirmed a visit to Clovis by Smithfield representatives. “They only made one visit here, that I know of,” Lansford said. “I really don’t know if they are even considering Clovis.” Lansford added he is also bound by a confidentiality agreement.

A spokesperson for Gov. Bill Richardson asked all questions regarding Smithfield Beef Group be directed to the New Mexico Economic Development Department.

Katie Roberts, NMEDD representative, had no comment when queried about Clovis being considered as a possible site for a Smithfield plant.

Smithfield is planning to build a multimillion-dollar meatpacking plant, which would employ up to 2,500 people, according to Hooker, Okla., Mayor Bill Longest. The Oklahoma mayor said state and city officials are in negotiations in Oklahoma City with Smithfield representatives.

“I know New Mexico had made them a pretty good incentive offer, and Oklahoma is trying to meet them,” Longest said.

Headquartered in Green Bay, Wis., Smithfield Beef Group is the nation’s fifth largest beef processor, according to the company Web site. The company processes approximately 2 million cattle annually, which represents a 6 percent share of the U.S. market.