SIOUX CITY -- Over the last 1 1/2 years, employment at Seaboard Triumph Foods has ballooned to about 2,000, a far cry from the less than 20 employed there when the plant opened in the fall of 2017.
In October, STF Chief Operating Officer Mark Porter said the pork plant had surpassed 1,800 employees and started up a second shift. At the time, he said the plant would reach 2,000 employees, slaughtering more than 20,000 hogs per day.
"We are continuing to hire, continuing to ramp up," Porter said. "Six million hogs (annually) is our destination, late 2019 is where we see reaching that."
Sioux City economic development director Marty Dougherty said the plant has boosted the region's economy in a big way. The 942,000-square-foot plant, the second-largest fresh pork plant in the world and one of the newest of its kind in the United States, has brought a lot of jobs, both blue-collar and white, to the region.
"It's really one of the largest projects in Sioux City history," he said.
The prosperity extends beyond the walls of Seaboard -- Dougherty said other businesses in the Bridgeport industrial area, including packaging, cold storage, warehousing and transportation, have seen their boats rise with the tide.
"A lot of the related industries that support Seaboard Triumph have expanded, which is really significant" he said. "Continued growth of (STF) means a continued growth for a number of industries, which has a huge effect on Sioux City and really on the region."
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Unrelated sectors of the local economy, including retail and healthcare, have benefited from a "ripple effect" thanks in part to Seaboard Triumph, Dougherty said, and he believes wages will rise across the board with the hiring boom at STF.
The city and state are doing their part to accommodate STF: the city has undertaken $11 to $12 million worth of road improvements in Bridgeport, aimed at easing traffic congestion in the area and making the area more conducive to industry. The state is paying for the bulk of the upgrades through an Iowa DOT RISE grant, with the city and Seaboard itself footing the rest of the bill.
The roadway upgrades are expected to be complete by the end of the summer.
Seaboard Triumph Foods is a 50-50 venture between two leading pork producers -- Guymon, Oklahoma-based Seaboard Foods and St. Joseph, Missouri-based Triumph Foods. Under the agreement, Seaboard and Triumph each are responsible for supplying one-third of the hogs to the plant, leaving the other one-third to be purchased on the open market from independent producers.
Dougherty recently toured of the plant and said he was impressed by the state-of-the-art nature of the facility: it's a far cry from the old-fashioned packing houses of Armour, Swift and Cudahy that once dominated meatpacking in Sioux City.
"There's a lot of robotics and automation," he said. "It's all stainless steel, state-of-the-art equipment -- it's a very safe environment."