CHEROKEE, Ia. — A few years ago, it would have been hard to find a parking spot along Cherokee’s bustling Main Street.
Now, not so much.
“Main Street is quieter,” said Darren Zwiefel, who owns Darren’s Clothing Co.
He and others say traffic has slowed in their downtown shops since Tyson, the town’s largest employer, closed its meat processing plant here in 2014.
City leaders believe they can recruit someone to fill the building Tyson vacated — reinvigorating Main Street and bringing back at least some of the 450 jobs lost when Tyson closed.
If only Tyson would let them.
The multinational food company has refused to break its long-term lease on the plant it no longer uses, electing instead to continue paying $130,000 annually in rent, along with maintenance costs and taxes on the empty 250,000-square-foot building.
Tyson officials have told the city they would consider handing over the shuttered plant — but not to any firm that they believe is competition.
As a result, Cherokee City Councilman Chad Brown says he and other city leaders feel like Tyson is holding Cherokee "hostage," preventing the northwest Iowa community of 5,000 from recovering from the economic gut punch it suffered when the plant closed.
“I think it’s typical large-scale greed,” Zwiefel said. “These organizations get so large that they forget about the impact they have on the people who have served them over the years.”
Tyson spokeswoman Caroline Ahn said the company wants another business to take over the Cherokee plant, though she did not specify what types of companies would be acceptable. She said Tyson had been in talks with three food companies, but that those prospects did not fall apart because of competitive interests. MORE