Troy Jones said this in regard to the Northern Beef issue:
If it was “crony capitalism,” Rounds friends must have benefited. Besides the fact the Chinese and Koreans weren’t known by Rounds, everyone lost their money and the taxpayer’s lost very little.
Well Troy, what about this:
Breukelman said the FBI also was interested in the change of ownership of the Aberdeen beef plant from one of its founders, Dennis Hellwig of Aberdeen, to Oshik Song, an EB-5 investor from South Korea who relocated to the Minneapolis area.
So who were bailed out of this bum project from the proceeds the state of South Dakota garnered from the EB-5 federal governmental program? Check the time line from this November 2009 report, and perhaps we may get an idea on why the FBI is so interested in the change of ownership:
An Aberdeen man who wanted to start a beef processing plant on the south side of town is no longer involved as an investor or part of the management team.
Records filed with the South Dakota Secretary of State's Office on Sept. 23 show Oshik Song as the new general partner for Northern Beef Packers. Dennis Hellwig, the former owner of Hub City Livestock Auction, was the former largest investor and plant's prime spokesman.
Local officials said it is their understanding that Hellwig is no longer involved with the project. Hellwig told the American News he could not comment on the plant.
Julie Johnson of the marketing group Absolutely! Aberdeen said the plant is progressing on finalizing its financing. Gov. Mike Rounds said the same thing last month in Aberdeen but could not be reached for comment on Friday. When asked about the plant's status last month, Rounds said he would "love to see this work. I truly believe it's the right idea." He also said Northern Beef Packers needs to make a proper application for state assistance.
That was as of 2009, now for some previous history that leads up to that point four years ago:
February 2006: Aberdeen's city council cancelled a planned closed session to discuss a potential beef plant because the topic is not one that can legally be talked about in executive session under state law. Businessmen Dennis Hellwig and Norg Sanderson are identified as being involved with the project.
June 2006: Location of Northern Beef Packers identified as near the intersection of 135th Street and 387th Avenue on the south side of Aberdeen near the city's wastewater treatment plant. Joint city/county planning commission recommends rezoning the land from agricultural to industrial. More details emerge, including that the plant could potentially process 1,500 head of cattle per day and pay workers a starting wage of $12.50 an hour, plus benefits. Some locals start to voice concerns about smell and traffic.
July 5, 2006: Aberdeen City Council and Brown County Commission approve rezoning the land. Talk about circulating petitions to reverse the zoning decision begins.
July 13, 2006: Aberdeen's Zoning Adjustment Board grants a special exception to allow beef plant to be built south of town.
August 2006: More details about the plant are revealed, including that Doyle Brasher has agreed to start as manager. At least three buildings are planned, one for killing and processing, one for housing cattle and one for rendering and hide tanning. There's talk of a south Aberdeen bypass that would run in front of the plant. Northern Beef Packers has teamed with a food company and has plans to hire workers from regional American Indian reservations. Plans call for construction to start in fall with the possibility of the plant opening in spring. State officials say they will support the plant. IKOR, the blood processing and research plant, is mentioned publicly.
Aug. 15, 2006: Petitions calling for the rezoning to be put to a vote are rejected because they are turned into the city when officials say they had to be turned into the city and county jointly because the rezoning decision was a joint decision.
Aug. 16, 2006: Sanderson tells Brown County commissioners that Northern Beef Packers will request the creation of a tax increment financing district.
Oct. 31, 2006: County commissioners approve the TIF district by a 4-1 vote with then Commissioner Dennis Feickert opposing it because of concerns about county government being underfunded. Opponents of the TIF and beef plant begin to discuss possible legal action.
January 2007: Plans call for the plant to open by year's end with hiring to start in late spring. It will initially process 300 cattle a day. Hellwig says the plant has faced more opposition than expected. Labor, housing and diversity issues are being discussed in Aberdeen.
March 2007: Beef plant backers schedule a series of public meetings during with more details about the plant are revealed. Hellwig says he has visited South Korea to line up potential buyers. Two U.S. companies have agreed to sell the beef. Because of the TIF vote, plant opening is delayed until May 2008. A Minnesota firm will eventually sell the TIF bonds, if approved. Supporters say IKOR could employ 200 to 400 people with an average salary of $60,000. Businesses that could locate at or near the beef plant include a bank, convenience story, trucking company and perhaps more. Plant officials say other communities are interested in Northern Beef Packers if Brown County rejects the TIF.
April 2007: Officials say bonds will be sold in days after TIF vote, if approved. Construction is also expected to begin shortly after the vote. Some of the plant's financial partners remain unknown. Plant personnel say the state has plans to improve the road in front of the facility, but state and local officials say no money has been set aside.
April 24, 2007: Brown County voters approve the plant's TIF 66.54 percent to 33.46 percent. Hellwig says construction will begin May 1 with the bulk of financing to be squared away soon.
June 2007: Sanderson said he hopes construction can start in July and will last 10 months to a year. Bonds not to be sold until construction starts and money is needed. Brasher is no longer with the company, and Hellwig declines comment as to why. IKOR relocates to Aberdeen from California and has plans to partner with Northern State University and use a federal grant to start an ag-pharma research center.
August 2007: Water problems continue at plant, but plans call for main building to be framed and enclosed by fall.
September 2007: The plant's concrete roads are being poured. Plans call for bonds to be sold in weeks to come and plant to open in August 2008.
October 2007: Plant is using EB-5 program to attract investors.
November 2007: Plant's basement is being poured, though progress slows. Plans call for August 2008 opening with hiring to start in spring. Financing still being finalized. Irrigation plan scrapped because of cumbersome permitting process.
March 2008: Hellwig denies rumor that plant is sold to Korean investors. Never an investor, Sanderson is no longer involved with plant. Opening could still be in August.
June 2008: State auditor warns county commissioners that TIF bonds, which have yet to be sold, can only be used to pay for projects detailed in the beef plant's TIF plan, specifically buying property and a parking lot.
July 2008: Construction delays continue with Nov. 1 opening date now expected. About a dozen employees are on board, including David Palmer, president and chief executive officer, and Karl Wagner, chief financial officer. Financing still not finalized. State still has no plans to improve road in front of plant.
December 2008: Two more liens totaling nearly $1.5 million filed against beef plant. Hellwig says he wants to remain primary partner, but that the economic downturn has hindered financing. Taking on new investors is an option, though not one he prefers. Hellwig says there are 66 Korean investors through the EB-5 program. At $500,000 per investor, that's more than $30 million. State is offering $8 million in bonds and other financing, but has yet to receive completed applications. State says all needed permits are in place. Bonds remain unsold, and Hellwig says they are one of the last pieces of financing needed.
February 2009: Mechanic's liens filed by seven companies now total about $7 million.
April 2009: The number of liens is 12, totalling about $8 million. Plans call for and October or November opening.
May 2009: Brown County to seek attorney general's opinion on TIF bonds to see whether the TIF designation can be removed or the TIF plan can be altered. Ultimately, the county was advised not to remove the TIF designation.
June 2009: With the Olson lien almost certainly headed to trial, other businesses owed money are allowed in the case. A total of 16 liens totaling $13.35 million are filed.
August 2009: Northern Beef Packers has yet to pay first half of property taxes due April 30. It owes $62,003 plus a delinquent penalty of $2,067.
October: IKOR is still in the mix and, with NSU, procures $1.5 million federal grant to do a blood study and develop wound-healing applications that could be used to help soldiers.
Presently: Hellwig said he cannot presently comment on the beef plant, though state paperwork shows he is no longer the general partner. The mechanic's liens remain unresolved and in the court system. The plant owes $128,140 in back property taxes.
So can Troy Jones present informoration that confirms Hellwig and Sanderson has lost everything they invested, and did not get a dime from the EB-5 investors? After all, it appears these two guys were the force behind getting this plant off the ground beginning in 2006, and then they walk away in 2009 with the EB-5 investors holding the bag.
And now four years later the plant opens up momentarily and then goes bankrupt. Who will be the parties trying to buy this plant when it goes up for auction in Sioux Falls next month? Could it be those involved in IKOR, which we know at one time included Norg Sanderson? How much of a discount will the buyers enjoy?
Will we every have an accurate accounting on who lost their shorts and who came out smelling like a rose on this beef plant deal? And will we understand which government officials played what role in who became the winners and who ended up the losers? And we still don't know what happened with Richard Benda.