Nearly three years after state officials awarded grant funds to help an all-natural beef stick and jerky company expand production in Cody, the proposed project has not moved forward as planned.
Instead, Wyoming Authentic Products may partner with Wyoming Legacy Meats, a local slaughter plant in Cody’s North Industrial Park.
The Cody City Council recently voted to withdraw a $748,360 grant state officials approved in 2017. The money was for a project designed to nearly double the size of the facility north of the Wyoming Veterans Memorial Park, which is owned by Forward Cody and leased to Wyoming Authentic Products. The addition was to provide more area for raw meat preparation, packaging and smoking as well as office space.
The city was involved as a government entity grant sponsor.
According to Leslie Brumage, finance officer, since the grant was awarded on a reimbursable basis, and no expenses had yet been incurred, the city received no funds prior to rescinding the award.
An Aug. 20 letter informing the Wyoming Business Council about plans to withdraw the grant says Wyoming Authentic Products is visiting with Wyoming Legacy Meats – a United States Department of Agriculture slaughter facility – to provide the beef-trim product used to make snack sticks and jerky.
“We see significant promise in the synergy between these two local companies, keeping Wyoming beef in-state for processing,” Mayor Matt Hall writes. “In fact, we are now realizing an expansion of the slaughter and fabrication end of the Legacy plant may provide the optimal solution for both entities.”
Wyoming Authentic Products, owned by David Fales, started in 2011 with a line of gourmet beef products sold in grocery stores and restaurants throughout the West. The company’s all-natural beef products are made from Wyoming-raised cattle fed a diet of grass and grain.
In 2013, the company opened the first USDA-certified meat processing facility in the state after moving into the $1.5 million production facility built and owned by Forward Cody. That construction project was supported by a $1.22 million WBC grant.
The beef snack stick business grew and in early 2017 the state awarded the City of Cody a $748,360 WBC Business Ready Community pass-through grant for a $1.1 million expansion project.
Additional money would come from a $250,000 Value Added Agriculture Loan awarded to Wyoming Authentic Products for an additional smoker. The loan consisted of $187,500 from the WBC and $62,500 from Enhanced Capital of Jackson. As part of the grant match, Wyoming Authentic Products was expected to pay the $96,836 architectural design fees.
With money in place, Wyoming Authentic Products expected to increase production by 163 percent and grow its market from 7,000 to 10,000 U.S. outlets by December 2018. By 2020 the company anticipated adding 10 jobs to its current 14. By year three the projected annual salary would exceed the Park County median salary of $33,331 by $10,000.
According to the grant application, expansion was expected to return $1.79 million in state and local tax revenue over the next 20 years.
When the Wyoming Authentic Products’ beef snack stick business was growing, Forward Cody president James Klessens said there was significant urgency to increase the company’s volume to meet demand. Demand for the products has since waned.
“It didn’t grow as fast we thought it would grow,” Klessens said.
Expansion was put on hold as company board members revisited the pace of growth, discussing over the past several months whether to implement the project. Ultimately the board concluded the company is unable to move forward with the project as planned.
“It became a decision to say to the State of Wyoming, ‘Why don’t you take the money and give it to someone else?’” Klessens said.
By improving efficiency, the company learned production could exceed 400 cases, or possibly twice as much, (per day) without adding square footage.
“So it didn’t make sense to sit on state money,” Klessens said.