Fremont needs to look to its future
What will Fremont look like in 15 years?
A friend posed this great question regarding the impact on our community of locating or not locating the Costco poultry processing plant in our area. I have to believe that we hope to see a stronger, more vibrant community that offers jobs to attract others to move to our community and entices our young people to remain and make our community their home. Key attributes for this enhanced community would be a strong educational system, good healthcare and amenities that allow families to enjoy the “Nebraska Good Life.”
The Fremont area is facing a watershed moment. Do we embrace and support the Costco opportunity or push it away? I refer to this as a watershed moment because if we push the project away, we create an image of our community as one that doesn’t support economic development. We can attempt to justify our decision for a variety of reasons, but companies looking to locate in new areas will skip Fremont because it is a town not willing to consider business expansion opportunities. If that happens, Fremont will continue down the path we have witnessed over the past 30 years: a declining middle class, increased burdens on our school system, increased uninsured patients at the emergency room, and limited property tax base growth to provide funding for infrastructure improvements for utilities and public needs.
A better future does not mean we should support just any type of economic development opportunity, but it should strongly encourage us to look seriously at economic opportunities that fit who we are and objectively weigh the positives and negatives.
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The present opportunity would offer jobs with a starting wage above the median income level of our current processing jobs in the area along with full benefits. In addition, at least six community members have been on a tour of poultry processing plants. They came back reporting that these plants were not noisy, smelly, or spreading feathers throughout the community. They weren’t even aware they were in the area of a poultry processing facility until they were in the parking lot. As one of the agricultural experts was recently quoted, “Food safety technology has come so far. And of all the protein sources, poultry is the least impactful to the communities and the environment.”
Costco wants to be a strong community partner and the humane treatment of the chickens is of great importance. They like Fremont because of the labor force that is located within 45 miles of their plant locations, the overwhelming support by farmers in the area to contract as growers and the readily available grain production in the area. Yes, there will be challenges of such a large employer coming to town which will have to be managed but the positives far outweigh the negatives. Plus, there are many peripheral benefits. Restaurants, retailers, related support businesses (electricians, plumbers, farm implement dealers, equipment suppliers, etc.) will see increased sales.
If we attract the Costco plant to Fremont, I predict in 15 years our city will be even better and more vibrant than the community we all love today.