Disaster Averted in Howard County

Article by Jason Passmore

Howard Countyhad felt the affects of the downturn in the economy the past few years but things were seemingly stabilizing and the outlook was becoming cautiously optimistic.  Then two freak events occurred that sent the community scrambling.  First, a fire at SMI, a wood pallet manufacturing company in Cresco, was seriously damaged November 14, 2011.  Three separate fire departments from the area battled the blaze throughout the night trying to contain the fire.  When the ashes settled, a warehouse, a heat-treated kiln, and around 10,000 pallets were destroyed.  As bad as this was for SMI who employs over 65 people, the production area was spared and no one was injured.  The next morning with the aide of local construction firms, SMI was back producing pallets for their customers and working to make improvements.  A decision had to be made about the longevity of the manufacturing operation and to the joy of the community the choice was to rebuild in Cresco.

Less than a month later, after responding successfully to an auto body fire around 3:30 pm on December 20, 2011, the Cresco Fire Department received another call around 7:30 pm.  Cresco Food Technologies, a food toll processing and manufacturing company employing almost 50 people, called to say an explosion occurred at the plant.  The Fire Department responded and found extensive damage and one employee severely burned.  Again, a decision had to be made yet Cresco Food Technologies has made the choice to work on improvements to their facility and to rebuild in Cresco.

These two employers could have limped away with insurance proceeds and choose to rebuild elsewhere or shut down completely.  But with community support, excellent volunteer fire departments and a quality existing workforce, the decision to stay was the overwhelming choice. Revolving Loan funds from Howard County Business & Tourism have been utilized and over 100 jobs stayed locally.