SIOUX CITY — A huge settlement, a new pork plant, renewable energy and major commercial investments are all part of the biggest business stories in Siouxland for 2017.
Here is the Journal’s Top 10 list, as selected by The Journal's business staff.
1) BPI settles with ABC News
After years of back-and-forth legal battles, Beef Products Inc. of Dakota Dunes settled its nearly two billion dollar defamation lawsuit against ABC News.
BPI reached a settlement with ABC on June 28 — the trial's 17th day — ending the trial and the lawsuit, in which BPI had sued ABC and reporter Jim Avila, seeking $1.9 billion, an amount that could have been tripled to $5.7 billion under a South Dakota law designed to protect agricultural interests.
Terms of the settlement and the amount are confidential. A regulatory report filed by Walt Disney Co., ABC's parent company, would later list a $177 million litigation settlement. That total is believed to be a portion of the settlement not covered by Disney's insurers.
This settlement put to rest a legal battle that started in September 2012 about six months after ABC did a series of news stories about BPI’s signature Lean Finely Textured Beef product, which got the nickname of “pink slime” after the reports aired.
The fallout from the story caused BPI to shutter processing plants in Waterloo, Iowa; Garden City, Kansas; and Amarillo, Texas, leaving its South Sioux City plant as the only one in operation.
More than 700 workers were laid off. In October, BPI founders Eldin and Regina Roth set up a fund to disperse $10 million to former employees who lost their job during the plant closures.
2) Seaboard Triumph plant opens
The state-of-the-art Seaboard Triumph Foods pork plant opened in September after about two years of construction on the 925,000-square-foot facility in Sioux City’s Bridgeport West Business Park.
In addition to being the country's newest fresh pork processor, the $301 million dollar facility will eventually employ more than 2,000 people, an increase of about 900 from its current workforce of 1,100.
To hit the 2,000 mark, STF plans to launch a second shift next summer and has eyes on potentially expanding into non-fresh pork products down the line.
3) Big Ox Energy controversy
The $30 million Big Ox Renewable Energy Plant went online in South Sioux City's Roth Industrial Area in fall 2016; however, controversy followed.
Shortly after opening, residents began complaining of headaches and noxious fumes entering their homes, which they say were caused by the plant that extracts organic nutrients from animal, grain and other waste to create methane, which is sold into the natural gas pipeline.
At least eight lawsuits have been filed against Big Ox and the city of South Sioux City from displaced residents. Additionally, the plant has been fined more than $100,000 from federal agencies for various violations.
4) Metro unemployment hits 16-year low
Not since the Gateway boom of the 1990s has the jobless rate been lower in metro Sioux City.
The latest report from the state pegged the metro’s unemployment rate at 2.8 percent in November, a .3 percent increase from the previous month. This rate was also 1.3 percent lower than November’s national average of 4.1 percent.
Local economic development leaders point out a near-record low unemployment rate presents a bit of a mixed bag, especially in a region where so many employers are prospering and increasing the size of their workforce.
5) Redevelopment booms in downtown Sioux City
Thanks to state incentives and visionary developers, the future of downtown Sioux City has never looked brighter.
The Sioux City Reinvestment District Project is a $134 million endeavor that includes Ho-Chunk Inc.’s Virginia Square mixed-use development; the Bomgaars Ag Expo Center; a five-story convention center hotel; and an effort led by local developer Lew Weinberg to convert the historic Warrior Hotel and Davidson Buildings into a luxury hotel/apartment building.
Additionally, Omaha-Council Bluffs-based developer J. Development is spending a little more than $22 million on repurposing the Commerce Building and former Hatch Furniture buildings into mixed-use properties.
The district also saw growth in the arts and recreation scene. Pearl Street Park, downtown's first park, opened in October. Two new murals were painted downtown, including one by Argentinian street artist Ron Martin, and the Lamb Arts Regional Theatre announced its $11.5 million effort to relocate to the former Sioux City auditorium.
Although downtown had some major victories in 2017, the area also took some hits. Coney Island Weiner House, Little Chicago Deli, Karlton's Clothiers & Tailors were among the long-time downtown businesses that closed and there were others that also shuttered or relocated.
6) More wind energy investments in Siouxland
The wind energy sector continues to grow exponentially nationwide and Siouxland is no exception.
Mid-American Energy Co. announced it was spending more than a billion dollars to “repower” the Intrepid Wind Farm in Buena Vista and Sac counties, the Victory Wind Farm in Carroll and Crawford counties, and the Century Wind Farm in Hamilton and Wright counties.
A year prior, the Des Moines-based utility finished major wind farms in Ida and O’Brien counties.
Another Iowa utility, Alliant Energy of Cedar Rapids, announced it was building a 300-megawatt wind farm across 30,000 acres in Clay and Dickinson Counties called the Upland Wind Energy Project.
Because of the abundance of wind power in Northwest Iowa and surrounding areas, Direct Connect Development Co. announced the SOO Green Renewable Rail project. This proposed 349-mile underground transmission line that would be built alongside Canadian Pacific Railway routes and ship wind-generated electricity to eastern U.S. markets.
Across state lines, Enel Green Power announced it was building the $430 million Rattlesnake Creek Wind Project in rural Dixon County, Nebraska. Of the 320-megawatts the farm will produce, 200 will be used to power Facebook’s new data center outside Omaha.
7) Civic Partners litigation comes to end
The city of Sioux City reached a settlement with California-based Civic Partners, the developer responsible for the building the Promenade Cinema 14 movie theater and adjacent vacant storefronts next to it.
The settlement allows the city to recoup some of the money it lost on the investment and now allows the empty spaces next to the Promenade to be rented out to interested parties.
8) Hard Rock expands Sioux City casino
Although it’s only been open since 2014, the Hard Rock Casino & Hotel has already had several expansions in its short history, including a $6.2 million add-on that was unveiled in June.
An additional 30,000-square-feet was added to the casino’s southeast corner. New features include The Wine Bar, which sells from 125 wine labels — 20 of which are served by the glass — along with 60 new slot machines, two high-stakes blackjack tables and a private lounge area.
9) American adds Dallas flight
The partnership between America Airlines and Sioux Gateway Airport continues to proper.
American Airlines announced in November it will add a second round-trip flight from Sioux City to its hub at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport from Feb. 15 through March 3.
That flight was the third time in a three month span toward the end of 2017 that American announced additional seasonal flights to Dallas-Fort Worth.
Airport officials have said that if the flights continue to sell well, American may make them a permanent fixture at SUX.
10) Polaris downsizes in Iowa Great Lakes
In April, Polaris Industries announced it ceasing production at its Milford, Iowa, plant, a decision that eliminated more than 300 jobs in the Iowa Great Lakes community.
Rather than let the 370,000-square-foot facility sit vacant, Milford officials alongside the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Lakes Corridor set out to find a new tenant for the space.
In December, Minnesota-based Liberty Diversified International, the parent company of Safco Products Co. announced it was moving its manufacturing operations to Milford.
The office furniture maker plans to take over the former Polaris plant and bring 100 new jobs to the community.