COLUMBUS, Neb. – Cargill will open up its $111 million cooked meats facility in Columbus, Nebraska, on April 20 with Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and other dignitaries expected to be on hand.
The project, which was announced in late 2015, converted Cargill's fresh ground beef plant to a cooked meats operation, will be a new addition to the company’s portfolio.
"The newest and best equipment and technologies to produce cooked ground beef, sausage, hot dogs and other products have been incorporated into our Columbus facility, underscoring our commitment to invest in, and grow, our protein business by better meeting our customers' needs and expectations," said Brian Sikes, corporate vice president for Wichita-based Cargill Protein. "We take a great deal of pride in knowing this facility, located in America's heartland, will help us achieve our goal to nourish people in a safe, responsible and sustainable way."
Along with the facility's new capabilities, employment will nearly double, from approximately 240 prior to the conversion to around 460. Some workers displaced when the conversion began were rehired following training they received in the interim.
Cargill collaborated with Central Community College and the Platte Valley Literacy Association, both in Columbus, and the Nebraska Dept. of Labor, in a public-private partnership to craft an adult education program financed by a $465,000 state grant. The 36-week curriculum was facilitated by Central Community College with backing of the Nebraska Dept. of Labor Columbus Works Training Program and attracted 49 displaced Cargill employees, in addition to more than 100 people retained at the facility.
"To better ensure that we continue to grow our protein business, it is important to Cargill that we invest in those who work for us, as well as those who are directly impacted by the business decisions we make,” Sikes said.
During the grand opening on April 20, one of Cargill’s key customers, Taco Bell, will be bringing a colorful food truck to serve lunch to guests and employees. The cooked seasoned ground beef used for the tacos will be produced at the new Columbus facility.
"Taco Bell shares the same growth mindset as Cargill, and is proud to be a part of the dedication of this massive state-of-the-art project," said Brian Niccol, CEO, Taco Bell Corp. "Investment in this facility not only provides the scale needed to deliver our customers great tasting tacos and burritos, but it also is creating much-needed jobs, employee training, and economic benefits for the community."
The plant has a storied history. The facility, which sits on 78 acres and spans a total of 106,000 sq. ft., has been a fixture in Columbus since 1995, when it was operated by Hudson Foods Co. It was acquired by IBP in 1998, and later operated as Carneco Foods as part of a partnership with IBP and Lopez Foods. Tyson Foods assumed IBP’s share of Carneco in 2001 when it acquired IBP. Then, in 2008, Cargill announced it would acquire Carneco to replace its ground beef plant in Booneville, Arkansas, that was destroyed by a fire in the spring of 2007.