Construction on a meat harvest and rendering facility officially kicked off with a groundbreaking ceremony in Caliente on March 22.
Representatives from the City of Caliente, Lincoln County Regional Development Authority (LCRDA) joined Jim Bourne, owner of Battle Born Butcher Block, LLC, for the event.
Mayor Steve Rowe told the crowd it took a lot to get things organized but the project is now well underway. Gold-colored shovels were used to break the ground as Mayor Rowe, Councilman Tommy Rowe and LCRDA executive director Jeff Fontaine did the honors.
Bourne said production is likely to begin by mid-summer. Supply chain issues and pricing will factor into the start. Primary goals for the project include providing quality meat at reasonable prices and creating good-paying, local jobs.
“We’re going to try and keep the meat prices down,” Bourne said, adding that since some of the company’s partner ranches are local, that should help keep prices down and restaurants will be able to buy from them.
On the job front, Bourne said an apprenticeship program is in development.
“We are going to be doing an onthe-job training program where the state is going to be offsetting some of the cost to train these people and get them into position.”
Bourne added, “Within a year or so we’d like to be approved by the state and federal government to do an apprentice program where we can take someone out of high school, put them into a two-year apprenticeship program, and have them come out as a fully certified butcher.”
He pointed out that $25-$30 an hour would be the expected wage, with a retirement package very similar to state retirement packages, hopefully allowing more young people to stay in the community.
Dave Hurd, LCRDA chairman, asked about the number of jobs the facility would create. Bourne said they need 16 people to start. They’d like to run a morning shift and a swing shift, maybe eventually getting to 150 people, although it will take years to develop the workforce in the community.
Councilman Rowe thanked Bourne, saying he’d seen a lot of talk about getting a project like this completed, but never seen “any mud moved.” He said it’s a good start and also thanked Fontaine, for helping bring the opportunity to Caliente.
Bourne said Fontaine was “absolutely instrumental in getting this done.” He said the city council and the LCRDA had also been a big help.