State help for Northern Beef was about $4.3M

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – U.S. Senate candidates talking about the idled Northern Beef Packers plant in northeast South Dakota have tossed out figures for taxpayer losses ranging from nothing to $80 million, but a breakdown from state agencies shows the actual number is closer to $4.3 million.

Northern Beef opened on a limited basis in 2012 after years of delays, but filed for bankruptcy protection in July. Investment banking firm White Oak Global Advisors submitted the winning $44.4 million credit-and-cash bid for the plant in December and closed on the sale earlier this month.

Much of Northern Beef’s investment money was raised through the federal EB-5 program, which encourages foreign investment in exchange for qualifications to secure permanent residency. During a Republican primary candidate forum Saturday hosted by the South Dakota Newspaper Association, Gov. Mike Rounds said: “We have not lost any taxpayer money.”

Yankton attorney and soldier Jason Ravnsborg, however, said during Saturday’s debate: “We lost approximately $80 million. I don’t think that’s good, responsible government to lose that much money.”

Figures from the South Dakota governor’s office show that about $3.5 million in state Future Fund Grants supported the Northern Beef Packers project. The Aberdeen plant also received nearly $845,000 in state construction-tax refunds, according to the South Dakota Department of Revenue.

Ravnsborg said Wednesday the figure he was referring to was the difference between the $115 million to $120 million total money raised to build the plant and the $44.4 million recovered during the bankruptcy sale.
“I would dispute Governor Rounds‘ contention that the program has been a success,” Ravnsborg said. “I don’t know too many businesses that end up in bankruptcy that consider themselves successful.”

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