Quapaw Ok (June 23, 2021) - In 2020, the business committee as a whole finally got to take a look at some of the financials throughout our other entities. The outlook was not appealing; as a matter of fact, there was a great reason for concern.
In March of that year, many businesses were unsure if they could continue operations given a worldwide pandemic, but the food industry was not in that discussion. Food was a necessity and many manufactures were making hand over fist in record-breaking revenue. Quapaw Nation could not say the same.
Like many of Quapaw Nations entities not tied to gaming, the meat processing plant was in dire need of direction. That direction was found in a partnership with Cypress Valley Meat Company.
The Quapaw Post had the opportunity to sit down with Andy Shaw, CEO of Cypress Valley Meats.
CEO of Cypress Valley Meats - Andy Shaw
Can you tell us how the partnership between Cypress Valley Meat Company and the Quapaw Nation came to be for our readers at home?
Cypress Valley had cultivated a relationship with some of the tribal members and the plant personnel in 2019. Mitch Albright had been kind enough to take us on a tour of the facility and introduce us to some of the team at Quapaw Food Services Authority. We were very impressed with the skilled labor and talented team that was currently in place as well as the incredible state-of-the-art facility. We had a great meeting after the tour. We thought that there might be some possibilities to collaborate in the future and agreed to stay in touch.
In 2020, Cypress Valley and Quapaw began a discussion about a possible partnership. We were exploring a potential lease agreement between CVMC and QFSA. Both parties were exploring how to structure the agreement that was mutually beneficial. During the process of the negotiations, a couple of new members were elected to the Business Committee: Chairman Joseph Byrd and Sec/Treasurer Guy Barker. They proposed a different type of contract; Chairman Byrd and Barker wanted to structure a management services agreement between CVMC and QFSA. We thought that this was a creative solution that was mutually beneficial for both parties. We worked out the fine details and moved forward with the agreement.
How has the partnership been working so far?
The partnership has been fantastic. We have had some early success at the facility. The relationship between Quapaw and Cypress Valley is very strong. There is clear alignment on product quality, food safety, and employee engagement. We also have frequent communication with the tribe and they have been both responsive and supportive of our strategy to execute the shared vision.
What was it about the Quapaw Nation processing plant that drew Cypress Valley’s attention?
Cypress Valley was at operational capacity when we began working discussions with the tribe. We were looking to expand our footprint and accommodate more customers, including many small farmers. QFSA checked a lot of boxes for us. It was a new, well-maintained facility. It had the capabilities to take livestock all the way from a live animal to a fully cooked finished product. QFSA is also equipped with a large carcass cooler that allows us to hold up to 200 heads at a time. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the staff was a big factor. Although more employees were needed to meet demand, there was a core group of talented meat cutters and butchers in place to build upon. We felt like the strengths of the facility and the tribe and the strengths of Cypress Valley Meat Company complemented each other extremely well.
When Cypress Valley first arrived, how did the operations look? How would you compare that to now?
I have said this multiple times, but it is true. A great core group of employees was in place, but the facility was significantly understaffed. This was leading to some employee turnover, decreased volume, and inefficiencies throughout the plant. QFSA had to reduce the number of beef coming through the facility because of staffing issues. The decision was also made to temporarily discontinue processing hogs.
Cypress Valley’s priority upon agreeing was to stabilize the current operations, add talent, and increase throughput in the facility. Since November, we have added 16 employees and increased the throughput by 275% quarter over quarter. This also included bringing pork processing back into the facility.
Is growth something to look forward to in the future?
We are absolutely looking forward to significant growth in the future. We plan to add a second shift of processing, packaging, smoked meats/value-add products in the next year. Additionally, we want to produce an award-winning sausage and smoke meats program that boasts some of our proprietary recipes and seasonings. The plan is to add another 20 to 25 employees and increase revenue to $5 million a year within the next 36 months. Our goal is to be known as the premier processor in the region and develop a national presence. We are very excited about the direction of the company and what the future of the Quapaw and Cypress Valley relationship holds.