While there’s been no word publicly as to how well Farbest Foods officials have done in plucking some $19 million off the estimated cost of their turkey-processing plant planned for the U.S. 41 Industrial Park, that doesn’t mean the project is in any way stalled.
On Monday the county commissioners approved their part of an application for federal money that would be used by Farbest to purchase a $1.5-million piece of equipment for the facility.
Greg Jones, executive director of the Loogootee-based organization, said while the county was a sponsoring agency for the grant application it wouldn’t be required to put up any matching funds.
He explained that Farbest would have to hire at least 151 employees who met federal guidelines as to their being from low or moderate-income households in Knox County in order to qualify for the money.
If the company wasn’t able to meet that threshold, no matter how many employees the plant eventually employed, the money would have to be returned, Jones said.
And should the plant close, either Farbest or whatever the subsidiary of the company that was the “owner” of the plant would be responsible for repaying the money.
Jones said there was a scenario in which the county could be left liable for the money, which led county attorney Dale Webster to suggest a change in the language of the grant application to, in part, protect the county’s exposure.
Webster’s suggestion — really a requirement of the county’s agreeing to the application — was to include language that specified that should Farbest or its subsidiary fail, the equipment purchased with the grant money would become the county’s, which could then dispose of it as the commissioners saw fit.
That way, Webster said, the county could sell the equipment to recoup some or all of the $1.5 million.
“It’s just protection for the county,” the attorney said.
Commissioner Jimmy Parish said such language had been included in a similar agreement some years ago, and when the company in question did, in fact, go into bankruptcy the county was able to take possession of the machinery and sell it.
Jones agreed to the change in the language.
Jones also explained that the money could only be used to purchase equipment for the local plant.
If Farbest decided it couldn’t make the numbers work for the plant in the industrial park, the company wouldn’t be able to use the grant funds to purchase equipment for its plant in Huntingburg in Dubois County, he said.
“The money is intended to help create jobs in Knox County and could only be used in Knox County,” Jones said.
Earlier this month Farbest officials said they needed to scale back the project due to its projected cost now coming in at $89 million — well above the anticipated cost of $70 million.
Officials expected to know late last week whether the necessary cuts could be made in the cost of the plant.
The company announced its plans to build the $70-million facility late last year, promising to bring some 350-400 jobs to the county.
The company has also announced plans to build an $18-million corn-milling facility near Bruceville to produce feed for the turkeys that would be raised to the company.
Those plans, or course, are contingent on the Vincennes plant moving forward.