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The socioeconomic impact of four agricultural processing plants on their respective North Dakota communities was investigated. The objectives were (1) to evaluate the impact of plant construction and operation on economic, demographic, public service, and fiscal structures of rural areas and (2) to develop a set of general principles and recommended actions for community leaders to follow when a new agricultural processing facility is being considered. The selected communities were Carrington (Foster County), Jamestown (Stutsman County), New Rockford (Eddy County), and Wapheton (Richland County). In-depth personal interviews of community leaders were conducted in each community. In addition, a representative from the agricultural processing plant was also interviewed. Subsequently, a random drop-off/pick-up survey was conducted in the communities. A total of 469 questionnaires (85 percent response rate) were completed by community residents. Improved job opportunities and enhanced incomes were seen as major benefits to the local communities with the addition of the agricultural processing plants. Except for a few management and engineering positions, most of the available jobs were filled by area residents. The addition of the plants did not result in a large in-migration of people to fill positions. The residents' incomes were enhanced by the payroll of the plants. The areas where the plants are located had experienced a declining population base for some time. The siting of these plants did not reverse this trend; however, the employment of the processing plants did help slow the depopulation trend. The availability of 'affordable' housing was a concern in most of the communities. Most of the plant workers wages ($9-13/hour) would not allow for purchasing a new or existing homes in these communities. In one community, there were vacant homes which had been forfeited to the city in-lieu of property taxes. These homes have since been sold and are contributing property taxes to the community. Availability of day care was an issue in all communities. Also, if the plants operated on a 24 hour schedule, extended hour day care was an issue. Two of the communities in which the processing plants operated 24 hours per day offered extended hour day care, but in both cases the demand for extended day care did not justify the additional expense. The short- and long-term implications of local tax abatements were an issue for all communities. Some felt that local governments were leveraging the community's fiscal resources too much, while others believed that the community needed to be more concerned with the longer-term implications of tax abatements. At any rate, the consensus was that residents needed to be kept informed regarding commitments being made to a project and the implications of those commitments. Community leader advice to other communities considering economic development projects could generally be categorized as 1) appropriateness of project and compatibility with community, 2) infrastructure planning and financing, 3) anticipating issues and needs, and 4) development approach and attitude.


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