ARCHIVED  March 1, 1997

Monfort to Excel, meat plants bring money, taxes, jobs

One whiff, and many visitors to Greeley ask: “What’s that odor?” And since the early 1960s, the answer has been, “The smell of money.”Though the odor problem continues to be a bone of contention for Greeley’s citizenry, the truth of the matter is, meatpacking and feedlots -ConAgra-owned Monfort of Colorado being the largest in the county – contribute substantially to Weld’s economy. And the same is true for Morgan County, where Excel Corp. is the area’s largest employer.
“Combine packing plants with feedlots with the wholesale sale of meat, and they’re a major employer across all industries for the private sector,´ said Greeley-based economist Ann Garrison. “And since the education level in Weld and Morgan counties is lower than average for the state, they provide jobs for people who would have to commute out of the area or move all together.”
Monfort of Colorado was founded in 1960 by Warren Monfort and later headed by his son, Ken, who later handed the reins to his son, Richard, who has since moved on to other entrepreneurial opportunities. Another son, Charlie, co-owner of the Colorado Rockies, continues with the company’s international sales division.
Monfort was bought by ConAgra in 1987. The Weld County companies include corporate headquarters, meat processing – pork and lamb as well as beef, feedlots, distribution and by-products. The company employs 4,000 people and has an annual payroll of $100 million, according to K.T. Miller, director of public relations.
Though she wouldn’t divulge annual sales figures, Miller did say that the Weld County division is “a large chunk” of ConAgra’s total sales of $24 billion.
Miller said that the majority of cattle bought are from local ranchers and cattle feeders, though Monfort does buy from a three- to four-state region. She said ConAgra also buys $16 million in hay, silage and corn annually from area farmers.
Garrison, using a 1993 input/output table for all meatpacking and feedlots in Weld County, the latest available, noted that one of the most significant contributions to Weld County by its meatpacking plants is the percentage of domestic and foreign exports, which are 40 percent and 29 percent, respectively.
“When you get in the vicinity of 20 to 25 percent of a business, that’s significant,” she said.
She also noted that both meatpacking and feedlots are not large importers – less than 1 percent in both areas. “That’s good because imports generate leaks of income out of the county,” she said.
Another significant figure is that the meatpacking industry provides 17 percent of all commodities generated in the county.
The meatpacking industry, however, is not an important contributor to the county’s tax base, with just less than 7 percent.
Excel Corp. has been in Fort Morgan since 1966. It had experienced several ups and downs and was eventually acquired in 1987 by Cargill, a privately owned company out of Minneapolis that deals with ag-related commodities. Cargill also purchased Excel in Sterling at the same time.
The Fort Morgan plant is primarily a beef-processing and fabrication plant with 1,950 employees, most of whom are meat cutters. Annual payroll is $31 million, according to Mark Klein, spokesman for Excel.
The plant processes 4,000 head a day, a little more than one million a year. The value of those cattle, Klein says, fluctuates between $600 million and $800 million a year.
Excel, too, is a major exporter, with Japan the top distribution point. Klein said that in 1995, exports added $100 to the value of fed cattle, $100 to feeder cattle and just less than $100 value to calves.
Klein noted that the meatpacking industry follows the basic principles of supply and demand. And, he added, it is a cyclical business.
Cathy Shull, executive director of the Fort Morgan Chamber of Commerce, said Excel is a big contributor to the county in terms of payroll dollars, taxes and charitable contributions. “Their employees are the largest contributor to the United Way Campaign each year,” she said.
Shull noted that the second-largest employer is School District RE-3, with 400 employees, followed by Western Sugar Co. with 340.
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One whiff, and many visitors to Greeley ask: “What’s that odor?” And since the early 1960s, the answer has been, “The smell of money.”Though the odor problem continues to be a bone of contention for Greeley’s citizenry, the truth of the matter is, meatpacking and feedlots -ConAgra-owned Monfort of Colorado being the largest in the county – contribute substantially to Weld’s economy. And the same is true for Morgan County, where Excel Corp. is the area’s largest employer.
“Combine packing plants with feedlots with the wholesale sale of meat, and they’re a major employer across all industries for…

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