The Dispatch and QCOnline today are featuring stories about a tour Friday by 17 local elected officials to the Triumph Foods pork processing plant in St. Joseph, Mo. We are told that this plant is “nearly identical” to the one proposed to be built in rural East Moline. The newspaper story focuses primarily on how much of an odor is associated with the plant and selectively quotes participates of the tour commenting on how little they smelled. In her blog entry the reporter notes that she smelled even less on this tour than she had on her first tour when she smelled “faint whiffs of manure.” There were also comments on how clean and orderly tour participants found the inside of the plant. In the newspaper two pictures accompanied the story, both taken inside the plant and showing a few men who appeared to me to be supervisors. Although we are told that 1000 people are employed at the plant, judging from the descriptions and the pictures of this tour we might conclude that it is an automated plant and all 1000 are supervisors and inspectors wearing clean white lab coats, spending their time observing the orderly procession of hogs marching off to process themselves.
Nothing was said about the outside of the plant or its effect on the area in which it was built. Thom Hart was on the tour but there were no quotes from him about whether or not the plant had revitalized that part of St. Joseph, or about whether there was any new development spurred by the presence of the plant. This was surprising to me since Mr. Hart had been quoted a few weeks ago as saying that he expected the proposed East Moline plant to cause an upsurge of other development in that part of rural Rock Island County, similar to the development going on in the 53rd Street area of Davenport. I considered that the most amazing thing said by anyone involved in the debate about the plant. Why would anyone build a doctor’s office, movie theater or upscale restaurant next to a pork processing plant? Perhaps Mr. Hart will, at some point, add some follow up to his prediction, stating whether after what he saw in St. Joseph he still has those expectations.
There were a lot of things that participants of a tour like this must have seen and noticed that the reporter did not comment on – the area around the plant, the effect of the plant on its environment, the kind of people working in the plant and the kinds of things they were expected to do. One has to suppose that these things were not reported because the story was narrowly focused – perhaps on things that would advance the cause of getting the public to support the Triumph Foods development deal. If a lot of what tour participants saw was not reported because it would not be helpful to that cause what does that say about that cause?