A Canadian bank that was owed more than $160 million by the former Future Beef Operations plant in Arkansas City has bid $28.7 million to become the new owner.

The Kentucky company that will run the plant hopes to have it in operation and employing up to 500 people by spring.

The Bank of Nova Scotia beat out two other bidders, including a group of Arkansas City buyers, at a public auction in Broomfield, Colorado.

The local group, Cowley County Acquisition LLC, bowed out after bidding $27.6 million. A third bidder, Smithfield Foods, dropped out after bidding $26.0 million.

The sale won’t be final until after a hearing Friday in United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Colorado.

The bank has designated Creekstone Farms Inc of Kentucky to run the plant. Creekstone president John Stewart said he hopes the plant is running by spring. Stewart anticipates the plant opening with a work force of about 500.

‘We’re very excited about it’, Stewart told the Arkansas City Traveler. ‘We’re looking forward to becoming part of the community.’

Arkansas City Mayor Arleta Rice said the Bank of Nova Scotia is also paying $14 million for the equipment in the beef-processing plant, making the total deal worth $42.7 million.

Rice, who said that she didn’t know all the details about the sale, suggested that the plant could be in production in 30 to 60 days because the equipment and plant are relatively new.

About 900 people lost their jobs when Future Beef was forced to close in August. Some of those workers went elsewhere to find jobs, Rice said, but most stayed, optimistic the plant would reopen.

‘Some people left town, but many more remained, knowing this is a brand-new, state-of-the-art plant that would be purchased’, she said. ‘And it happened.’

Creekstone Farms – with a farm operations and livestock management office in Campbellsburg, Kentucky., and customer service office in Thornton, Colorado – raises pure-bred black Angus cattle.

When it opened, Future Beef had been hailed as a pioneer in the industry for using modern technology and offering a variety of value-added products such as blue-chrome hides, pet treats and packaged meats.

But the company filed for bankruptcy protection in March, seven months after it opened, and lost well over $200 million before closing in the summer.

Source: The Wichita Eagle