‘Sausage’ gets grant

The former Martins Meats facility in northern Sampson County was the site of some work Tuesday. Kansas City Sausage Company has plans to develop a new pork sausage processing and production plant and county officials are taking steps to see that project happen in Sampson.

A sizable project proposed for Sampson County has received one grant award, and has another pending formal approval — a $1 million total that would assist in bringing its proposed pork processing plant, its $45 million investment and nearly 180 jobs to the county.

Sampson County was recently approved to receive a $500,000 Economic Infrastructure Grant (EIG) from the N.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority for Kansas City Sausage Company to expand its operations by demolishing an existing building at the former Martins Meats facility in northern Sampson and constructing an updated 60,000-square-foot facility.

The site is not currently served by public sewer, and the grant money will specifically pay for 14,060 linear feet of 8-inch force main, a pump station and the necessary rights of way.

In addition to the EIG funds, Kansas City Sausage Company was approved for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for its efforts to switch off the private wastewater system to public sewer, while retaining jobs. Economic developer John Swope said Tuesday the CDBG is still pending formal approval.

“We received the award letter that we did receive the Economic Infrastructure Grant,” Swope confirmed Tuesday. “For the Community Development Block Grant, that money has been committed and earmarked for the project. We’re just waiting on the final approval.”

Swope said the county could receive notification of that formal grant award within the next several weeks.

“It all looks very good and positive for all parties involved,” Swope pointed out. “As long as everything keeps along the way we think it will, everything looks like it will be happening.”

There was some work going on at the site on Tuesday, and County manager Ed Causey and Swope were also scheduled to discuss some logistics with Cumberland County officials.

“It’s a daily thing we’re working on,” Swope said.

Kansas City Sausage Company LLC has proposed to develop a new pork sausage processing and production plant at the former Martins Meats rendering facility in northern Sampson County, laying out plans to make taxable investments of $44.8 million and create 177 full-time jobs, at an average annual salary of $31,905. The majority of those jobs are proposed to be created in the first year in 2016.

In the meantime, the county has sought grant funding to ease the transition for Kansas City Sausage.

“As part of the process of recruiting Kansas City Sausage to do a very nice expansion at the former Martins Meats production plant up in northwestern Sampson County,” Swope said last month, “we are working with several entities to be able to have a sewer line extended from Cumberland County into Sampson County.”

The total cost of that sewer line expansion will be approximately $1.2 million. Swope said county representatives have worked with the N.C. Department of Commerce in an effort to get $1 million in grant funding — the $500,000 EIG funds are now in hand and the $500,000 CDBG funds are anticipated to follow.

Last month, the Board of Commissioners also unanimously agreed to offer incentives to Kansas City Sausage.

Of the roughly $3.03 million in annual property taxes, the grant-back incentives would offer to give back 27 percent of that amount — $823,308 — in the first five years, leaving the county with approximately $2.2 million in remaining tax revenue over the course of the first 10 years.

Kansas City Sausage has formed a 50/50 partnership joint venture partnership with Smithfield Foods Inc. to develop a new hog slaughtering and pork sausage processing plant in one facility. The company has been considering two other locations for the plant, including in Kansas City, Mo., and Des Moines, Iowa.

The new facility would process between 700 and 1,000 hogs per day as well as a pork sausage processing plant that would annually produce 50 million pounds of finished product. The company plans to have the new plant operational in December 2015 or January 2016.

“They are looking to develop a new sausage production line either at this location in the former Martins Meats or in another location, depending on how it goes here,” Swope stated last month. “If everything goes well here, it could very well land here in Sampson County.”

On Tuesday, he said all steps continue to be made toward realizing the plant in Sampson.

While a full commitment and site announcement has not been made by Kansas City Sausage, Swope said the county continues to line its ducks up in preparation for the industry’s arrival.

“It’s coming up pretty soon,” Swope said. “This is going to happen fairly quickly when it does.”