Breaking ground for growth

Meghan Flynn
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday for the new Empirical Foods ground beef processing facility at 110 S. Jennie Barker Road. It's expected to begin operations in 2023, bringing about 300 new jobs to the area.

Construction has officially begun at the Empirical Foods site in Garden City.

A groundbreaking ceremony for Empirical Foods was held Thursday morning at the site of the future ground beef processing facility at 110 S. Jennie Barker Road.

Representatives from Empirical, the city of Garden City, Finney County, Finney County Economic Development Corporation, Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce and state officials who included Secretary of Commerce David Toland, Rep. Russ Jennings, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall attended.

Lona DuVall, Finney County Economic Development Corporation president and CEO, said she’s excited for the Empirical building project to be at the groundbreaking stage.

“We've had some setbacks with COVID, but it's very exciting to have the company out here and get started on a project that we know is going to bring great opportunities to the people of Finney County and the greater Garden City region,” she said.

The facility is expected to be operational in 2023 and will bring about 300 new jobs to the area.

It will supplement Empirical’s existing production facility in South Sioux City, Neb., and represents an investment totaling up to $250 million.

Nick Roth, president of Empirical Technology and Empirical Innovations, said the motto of Empirical is to provide access to “safe, high quality and affordable food,” and this new facility represents that as it will help them achieve that mission.

“Empirical's become an industry leader because we have dedicated ourselves to designing, engineering, constructing and ultimately operating the most technologically advanced food processing system in the world,” he said. “This facility will truly be one of the finest food processing facilities ever built ... We are really excited, it's an exciting for our company in this region, and we really appreciate this opportunity.”

DuVall said the addition of the facility and the 300 new jobs is huge for the region.

“When we create direct jobs we're also creating indirect jobs, so we'll see increased in trucking jobs and logistics jobs and honestly retail and restaurants. Everybody gets a lift when you add this many primary jobs to a community,” she said. “It’s super exciting to have the capital investment and the new jobs and opportunities.”

David Toland, Kansas Secretary of Commerce, read a message from Gov. Laura Kelly at the groundbreaking congratulating the addition of Empirical Foods to Garden City, Finney County and southwestern Kansas.

“Empirical Foods made a smart decision in choosing to do business in a community with so much to offer in excellent schools, excellent infrastructure and top of the line, quality-of-life amenities for employees and their families,” Toland read. “It's so good to see this success story unfold, and especially during this very challenging time. All involved are to be commended for their part in this exciting development for Garden City, southwest Kansas and the state.”

Eldon Roth, founder of Empirical Foods, speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Empirical Foods ground beef processing facility Thursday in Garden City.