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EPA Making Alpena Water Safer, Jerky Maker Survives and Thrives

Link Snacks, Inc., employs 850 people at its jerky factory in Alpena, population 286. That factory uses a lot of water, and the Environmental Protection Agency is tightening water quality regulations. To help Alpena meet those regulations and absorb increased discharges from the expansion Link Snacks wants to undertake, the company is investing $7.1 million to upgrade Alpena's wastewater treatment facility. They're also benefiting from a half-million-dollar federal Community Development Block Grant and a $1.5-million low-interest federal loan. And Link Snacks is still going to add 75 jobs in Alpena over the next five years.

These EPA regulations aren't killing jobs. They are helping maintain water quality and the general quality of life in Alpena, so if workers get sick of bombing down 37 from Huron every day, they can build a house in Alpena and enjoy a cool, non-toxic drink of water.

p.s.: Market-speak of the day comes from Rick Tebay, Link Snacks general manager:

The need is growing for beef jerky.... It’s growing by leaps and bounds [Rick Tebay, quoted by Anna Jauhola, "Big Growth in Little Alpena," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2012.11.23].

Link jerky is good jerky. But let's not mistake needs for wants. There is no need for one single product on Link's menu... not even the Turkey Jerky.


  1. MIchael Black 2012.11.23

    Cory, maybe you should ask yourself why a company would locate itself and then expand in a very small town instead of a neighboring city with better infrastructure.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.11.23

    That's a very good question, Michael! How did Alpena win Link Snacks, and what can other towns do to replicate that success recruitment (if it doesn't mean selling their souls and their natural resources)?

  3. larry kurtz 2012.11.24

    Alpena stinks to high heaven like rotting flesh and ammonia: doubtful Huron would endure it.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.11.24

    Michael, it's worth noting that, as I understand it from local observers, the high honchos for Link Snacks live elsewhere. CEO Jack Link lives in his Alpena-sized hometown of Minong, Wisconsin (which state has an income tax). I hear from a local that company president Terry Smith, a local boy whose dad ran the local meat shop that turned to making jerky and was then bought by Link, has moved to Minneapolis.

    Here's Jack Link's own story of the company:

    And here's a little history from a local observer:

    A family by the name of Smith moved to Alpena in the late 70's after purchasing the meat market/butcher shop. A few years later, the father had an unfortunate accident when he severed his hand in the meat saw. After this accident, it became almost impossible for him to handle large sides of beef for butchering. Thus, he began developing a recipe for beef jerky and turned the shop into a beef jerky business. Shortly after he had that operation up and running, he was killed in a car accident in about 1985. The two older boys, one still a senior in high school (Terry), assumed the role of running the business. They ran it to the best of their ability but began having financial issues. Then, Jack Link purchased the business.

  5. RGoeman 2012.11.26

    Always wondered why someone doesn't move a pasta factory to Wasta.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.11.26

    Now that's using your noodle, Rod!

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