On Sunday, we asked you to share your opinions on the proposed development of a 500,000-square-foot meat processing plant between Hopkinsville and Pembroke. It was expected to employ between 1,300 and 1,400 workers and slaughter more than 2,000 cows a day.
Less than 48 hours later, the South Western Kentucky Economic Development Council announced that the county had been eliminated from consideration.
According to the feedback of Hoptown Chronicle readers, it’s a result that many of you were likely pleased about.
Of the 32 responses we received, 69% were opposed to the development, 19% were in favor of it and 12% wanted more information.
Even though it appears that the development is no longer in the cards for Christian County, we wanted to share your responses here to provide the community and public officials with a better understanding of residents’ concerns to help inform discussions about future developments.
Concerns about environmental impact
Readers were most concerned about the potential environmental impact of the meat processing development, with nearly a third of respondents expressing reservations about the effect it would have on our region’s ecosystem.
Other top concerns included an expectation that there wouldn’t be enough local workers to staff the plant and the belief it “wasn’t a right fit” for Christian County.
“While jobs are needed in the county, we need employment opportunities that will attract well-educated applicants, not minimal wage earners,” a Gracey resident said. “I also oppose the manner in which local officials and recruiters have approached the entire process. I don’t think it necessary for the public to know every detail of possible recruitment actions, but I do think that the community was left unawares for far too long.”
Local officials said the company would pay wages ranging from $19 to $25 an hour.
Commenters also felt that the development posed a threat to their quality of life and worried about odors, traffic issues and increased demand on local services.
While just six respondents expressed support for the plant, several of them highlighted opportunities in potential job growth and a positive economic impact.
“People of Hopkinsville need jobs,” said Pat Woods of Hopkinsville. “They have to feed their kids and provide homes.”
An appeal for greater transparency
We also asked readers what they wanted public officials to consider as they made decisions regarding the proposal.
The overwhelming majority of responses called for increased transparency and many specifically urged community leaders to have conversations with those living in the affected area. They expressed frustration with the lack of opportunity for public comment and one Christian County resident, frustrated at the level of secrecy surrounding the proposal, commented that it “already feels too late to say anything about it.”
“I really think there should be a county referendum in order that transparency be foremost,” another respondent said. “Since tax revenues have been discussed, residents who could possibly benefit from or be saddled with additional tax responsibilities should have the right to make their opinions known.”
A Hopkinsville resident, who was in favor of the development, suggested that local officials visit communities with similar plants and talk to residents in those communities in order to quell related concerns.
As local officials move forward and consider future developments, some readers offered ideas for the type of industries they’d like to see move into Christian County.
Those who did arrived at one consensus: a focus on the future.
Several suggested that community leaders consider companies that would encourage education and offer higher-paying jobs. One Christian County resident suggested a facility that would encourage “youth to learn a technical trade” and has long-term benefits.
Other recommendations included distribution centers or automotive manufacturers.