Wells food processing plant purchased

Farm Forum

WELLS, Minn. — A subsidiary of a Minneapolis holding company announced on Jan. 23 it has purchased the shuttered food processing plant in Wells from a Mankato, Minn., bank that took control of it in foreclosure.

North Central Equity, which owns six other companies, is studying options for how best to operate the plant. One of its subsidiaries, called Wells Food Processing LLC, is planning to hire contractors and others to clean, maintain and evaluate the Wells facility.

It’s also looking for senior mechanics to install, inspect and maintain equipment at the former meat processing plant.

The company hasn’t said how many people it expects to hire or when it plans to open the plant but expects to release more information “as the refurbishing of the plant proceeds.”

Pioneer Bank took control of the site in 2013 after foreclosing on then-owner Stephen Singleteary of Mankato. The developer, originally from Miami, had borrowed more than $4 million from the bank and received more than $8 million public subsidies in 2010 to reopen the factory. The plant had been closed for most of the time since 2004, when then-owner ConAgra pulled out.

But Singleteary was only able to open the plant for about a month with about 20 employees in 2010. He was still trying to buy the property back from the bank as recently as Jan. 12, according to an email exchange in court documents filed on Jan. 20.

Singleteary had apparently lined up a Chinese investor, Hebei Huierxin USA Corporation, that had a $3.8 million bank balance as of May 2014, bank records filed with the lawsuit show.

Pioneer Bank was still willing to sell the property to Singleteary for $3.5 million, according to an email from one of the bank’s real estate advisers.

The adviser asked Singleteary to show that the actual purchasing entity — Singleteary’s investor group, which he called Diversity Food Solutions — had enough money to buy the property. By mid-January the bank was apparently entertaining another offer and set a deadline.

A Jan. 12 email from the real estate adviser said the bank was setting a deadline of Jan. 14 at 11 a.m. for Singleteary to provide current financial statements. Otherwise, the email stated, the bank would proceed with another buyer.

Singleteary had said in an email that he would provide additional financial information once the bank, through its adviser, agreed to accept his latest offer. But it appears the bank wanted the current financial information before it would sign off on the deal, not after.

Neither Singleteary nor the bank returned calls seeking comment on the lawsuit.