Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Business

New owner hopes to bring life to old Smithfield site

PLANT CITY — The Smithfield plant that closed four years ago has new ownership, but don't expect an immediate wave of job openings.

Don Stine said he purchased the idled plant with the aim of seeking tenants or selling it, possibly to a food processing company.

"So much of the infrastructure is already there. I just felt it was a good buy," he said.

Stine, the owner of commercial builder Don Stine Construction, purchased the 60-acre site off Turkey Creek Road in February for $337,500.

He's been working since to market it with help from local Realtor Doug Gibbs.

The property's centerpiece: a 200,000-square-foot manufacturing plant that served as a huge refrigerator during Smithfield's tenure and before that when Lykes Bros. operated it. There's also a nearby railroad spur.

"The cooling equipment is gone and the machines are gone, but it still has the heavy electric service and a fire-suppression system," Gibbs said. "It would need minimal work."

The shutdown, which came amid a companywide restructuring in September 2009, caused 760 job losses and followed a dismal year that saw several Plant City employers close their doors, including Bill Heard Chevrolet, Albertsons and Pilgrims Pride.

Lykes Bros. operated the plant for 29 years, producing hot dogs, deli meats and spiral hams.

Smithfield took over in 1996, preserving the jobs there. At the time, the Virginia-based company was the world's largest pork producer.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong-based Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd. bought Smithfield for $4.72 billion. The deal was awaiting shareholder approval.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2454.

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