· Paul Cameron, Greg Braun and Bob Presley, owners of Mesquite Cattle Feeders in rural Brawley;
· Jim and Tom Moiola and Sharon Barnebee, owners of Moiola Brothers Cattle Feeders of the Brawley area;
· Bill Brandenberg of Meloland Cattle Co. of El Centro;
· Bill Wiest and Dominique Antchagno, both private cattle feeders in the Imperial Valley;
· Gary Oden, Larry McDonald and John Flannigan, owners of McElhaney Cattle Co. in Yuma;
· Carl and Dave Stevenson, owners of Red Rock Feeding Co. near Tucson.
Many of the owners spoke publicly for the first time about the project they hailed as long overdue and a savior for the cattle industry in this area.
"The industry needs this plant," Oden said. "It will be a salvation guard of the cattle industry.
"We didn't have a market for our cattle without this plant," Oden said.
He added Brawley was the only California city considered for the plant. The other sites in contention were all in Arizona.
Oden credited the city of Brawley, the Imperial Irrigation District and Imperial County for making the beef plant project possible in California.
Jim Moiola said, "We have waited a long time for this. This is survival for us. If it wasn't for this plant today, we wouldn't be in the cattle industry."
Even as the owners voiced excitement, they were still waiting for the plant to start operation. The expected date to start bringing beef to the plant is Dec. 3.
The plant initially was set to open Oct. 27, but the need for more engineering work fueled the opening delay.
The owners said the delay hurts financially, but they can hold out until the plant is ready.
Greg Beck, president and chief operating officer of Brawley Beef, said he is confident the plant will open Dec. 3.
He said the plant should start "harvesting" about 25 cattle an hour and will "ramp" up that number as work continues on the plant.
At maximum capacity the plant will harvest about 215 cattle per hour and will have 600 full-time employees.
Assemblyman Dave Kelley, who represents the Imperial Valley, was at Saturday's ceremony.
Kelley has been credited for his role in the passage of legislation that allowed Brawley to expand its manufacturing enhancement zone to include the land upon which the beef plant is being built.
The MEA allowed the city to extend tax credits to Brawley Beef, one of the incentives that helped make the project happen in California.
"This is a very important day," Kelley said. "Just the fact that they chose to build this plant in California and Brawley means a lot."
County Supervisor Gary Wyatt, who represents the Brawley area, said "This is a day we have been looking forward to in Imperial County for many years."
Wyatt added, "We always said one of these days we are going to begin development and growth and this is that day."
Tom DuBose, who was the county's liaison for the project and now is the city of Brawley's liaison to it, said the plant is important for the state.
"This project and the way it came together will prove to be the model of how economic development projects can be done proving that against the odds we can accomplish some big goals," DuBose said,
The Brawley Beef plant is the first new beef plant in the nation in 20 years, according to plant officials.
They said the focus of the plant is food safety. They said the plant has been designed with the state-of-the art food-safety features unique among existing beef-processing plants in the nation.
>>Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.