Prime Pork opening brings prosperity to Windom
WINDOM, Minn. -- A little more than two weeks of the opening of Prime Pork in Windom, Minn., the plant has already delivered an economic boost to the community.
WINDOM, Minn. - A little more than two weeks of the opening of Prime Pork in Windom, Minn., the plant has already delivered an economic boost to the community.
A year after the 2015 closure of PM Beef, Glen Taylor - majority owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves, as well as owner of the Minnesota Lynx and the Star Tribune newspaper - purchased the facility with additional investors to transform it into a pork processing plant. After months of improvements and more than $20 million invested in the facility, Prime Pork started operating April 26.
The plant has not only brought back the 260 jobs that were lost after PM Beef shutdown, but will keep hiring until it reaches its maximum capacity of 350 employees. Prime Pork Chief Operating Officer Wayne Kies said the company is going to be hiring 60 employees per week.
Kies noted that the plant is progressively increasing the number of hogs that arrive at the plan each week and aims to reach its production goals by mid-July. The plant is currently operating five days a week, with a day and a night shift.
“We are starting fairly slow .. .we started the first day with 20 heads and we worked our way up to 500 heads last week,” Kies said. “We will continue to move that up to be at our maximum capacity at 6,000 a day.”
Kies explained Prime’s Pork three main hog producers are two of the company’s owners, which includes Taylor and another private industry. This allows them to control the hogs’ diet.
Windom City Administrator Steve Nasby said the city is eager to start a business relationship with Prime Pork.
“Opening a plant and having people employed is wonderful news for the community,” Nasby said. “People coming to work everyday certainly helps the local economy ... folks are buying groceries and gas. From the city side of it, it’s going to be good because we lost a significant revenue stream from our wastewater plant when PM Beef closed.”
Kies said the Prime Pork plant was originally supposed to open in the fall 2016 , but that turned out to not be feasible due to the high volume of renovations that were needed. The incorporation of advanced technological machinery also delayed the process, he added.
“We remodeled the entire facility, and the outside walls are probably the only thing that is really left of what was in the facility,” he said. “Another part of the delay was to make sure that our automation equipment could get built and get here in a timely manner.”
According to Kies, Prime Pork is one of the most technologically advanced pork processing plants in the country. He explained that the facility provides equipment that’s able to do some of the most physically demanding jobs. Automation, he said, not only provides a safer environment for employees, but also better-quality products.
“Machines, once they are set, perform better as far as quality, and it’s safer for our team members to have the machines doing it versus having manual labor,” Kies said. “We don’t want people picking up 20 pounds of ham or 15 pounds of bellies and putting them on a scale. That’s all being done with machines.”
Kies said he thinks a key element in ensuring Prime Pork’s success is treating its employees as an asset and performing the individual work, but also collaborating as a team.
“Taylor’s thought process and my thought process are similar in how we manage people,” Kies said. “We believe that there is nobody that is more important here, whether you are a production worker on the floor or myself sitting in the corner officer.”