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Circle Four Farms series: Circle Four changes Beaver County landscape

SHARE Circle Four Farms series: Circle Four changes Beaver County landscape

Originally published Sept. 13, 1998 Beaver County went looking for economic development, and it found Circle Four Farms.

Now, five years and thousands of hogs later, what does the county have to show for its efforts?

D. Steven Pollmann, Circle Four's general manager, says the answer is visible in the area south of Milford. Land that once was used primarily for grazing cattle and sheep now sports dozens of buildings, all packed with pigs.

And he said those pigs mean jobs, tax revenue and business opportunities.

Circle Four employs about 385 people, Pollmann said, and should add another 75 workers soon due to expansion.

Many of those employees, like Pollmann, are former Utah residents who were able to return for jobs at the hog farm. He said 60 to 70 percent of the company's workers grew up in Beaver and Iron counties.

The starting salary at Circle Four is about $7.50 per hour, plus benefits, Pollmann said, and the company's annual payroll is about $8 million.

He said Circle Four also will pay about $300,000 in property taxes in 1998 on land that generated little tax revenue before.

Circle Four's new headquarters in Milford, which was finished about two years ago, was converted from an abandoned grocery store on the town's Main Street, Pollmann said. The company also has purchased about two-thirds of its construction materials and some of its feed ingredients either locally or in Utah.

"Our people have come in and got involved in community and church activities," Pollmann said. "We brought good people into a community that was, in essence, dying."

But that does not mean the streets of Milford and nearby Minersville are paved with gold.

Many stores remain empty, and some people say the hog farm's jobs are second-rate.

"I don't know how a family could live on them," said Jill Hollingshead.

But Hollingshead, an 18-year Minersville resident and manager of Milford Drug, said she has seen economic growth in the area since Circle Four arrived, and the influx of new residents has helped keep the drugstore open.

Cary G. Peterson, Utah commissioner of agriculture and food, represented the Milford area in the state Senate when Circle Four started building. He said the school in town was only half full then, and the hospital was about to lose its only doctor.

"You couldn't begin to imagine the difference unless you made a comparison pre- and post-Circle Four Farms," Peterson said. "They're good for that small community, and I think they're very good for the tax base and the overall employment of Beaver County."

Ben Forman moved to Milford from Richfield two years ago to work for Circle Four. He stayed with the company for six months before quitting due to a prior disability.

"Before they came here, you couldn't give a home away," Forman said. "Economically, it's great."

Milford Mayor Mary Wiseman, a physician's assistant and 45-year resident of the town, was elected about five years ago just as Circle Four started building.

She said Circle Four has helped the local tax base and schools. The community also has a new, five-hole golf course, she said, and baseball fields are just about complete.

"I think all of us - and it was unrealistic - thought, "We will go to bed tonight and wake up tomorrow and Main Street will be beautiful,' " Wiseman said.

That did not happen, she said, but Main is looking better and will continue to improve.

Sherri Yardley, a 19-year Milford resident and Circle Four supporter, said she also thought things would change faster.

"I'm not as optimistic as I was two years ago," Yardley said.

Still, Beaver County Commissioner Richard Rollins said he thinks the project has been more good than bad for the area's economy.

"I think it's mostly been positive," Rollins said. "There's definitely been a little bit of negative, too, but you get that with anything."