Monday, May 02, 2016

Rural Neb. town turns down 1,100-job chicken plant; some residents fear influx of immigrants

Residents in a small town in eastern Nebraska have vehemently said no to a proposed $300 million chicken processing plant that would create 1,100 jobs—mostly for outsiders—on grounds that the plant would ruin their rural way of life, reports The Associated Press. When plans for the plant leaked out among the 400 residents of Nickerson, "there was no celebration, only furious opposition that culminated in residents packing the fire hall to complain the roads couldn't handle the truck traffic, the stench from the plant would be unbearable and immigrants and out-of-towners would flood the area, overwhelming schools and changing the town's character." Longtime resident Jackie Ladd told AP, "Everyone was against it. How many jobs would it mean for people here? Not many." (Omaha World-Herald graphic)

Two weeks after the plans leaked, the village board unanimously voted against the plant and the company said it would seek another location, reports AP. Proponents of the plant, such as farmer Willow Holliback, said "the Nickerson plant would have helped area farmers, who mostly grow corn and soybeans, start up poultry operations and buy locally grown grain for feed."

While opposition leaders say the issue is not about race or religion, at a public meeting last month many locals expressed concern about illegal immigrants and minorities flooding the town, reports AP. "John Wiegert, from nearby Fremont, where two meat processors employ many immigrants, questioned whether Nickerson's plant would attract legal immigrants from Somalia—more than 1,000 of whom have moved to other Nebraska cities for similar jobs, along with people from Mexico, Central America and Southeast Asia." He said, "Being a Christian, I don't want Somalis in here. They're of Muslim descent. I'm worried about the type of people this is going to attract." Another speaker said they were concerned about the number of minorities working at other processing plants.

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