2 Wisconsin dairy processors expand facilities
Agropur Inc., a the Canadian dairy processor with U.S. operations, said in November it is investing more than $55 million in its Weyauwega, Wis., facility to increase its Feta cheese production capacity.
In October, Baker Cheese Factory Inc., a family-owned cheese-maker in Fond du Lac County, announced plans to expand and modernize its operations in St. Cloud. The project is expected to create about 40 new jobs.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Madison, announced both projects. WEDC nurtures business growth and job creation by providing resources, technical support and financial assistance to companies, partners and communities in the state.
Agropur’s expansion, planned to be finished in 2016, is expected to create about 22 new jobs.
In a statement, Doug Simon, president of the USA Cheese Business Unit for Agropur, said “we are a leader in Feta cheese production and this will allow us to maintain that leadership position. We are very excited about this investment and in the future of the Wisconsin dairy industry as it provides employment opportunities and a stable home for milk produced in the area.”
Agropur Chief Executive Officer Robert Coallier added: “This Agropur investment truly shows how committed we are to establishing our leadership in the U.S. market and to the future of the Wisconsin dairy industry.”
WEDC is providing Agropur with $1.65 million in Economic Development Tax Credits over the next few years. In order to receive the full credits, Agropur must retain the existing 146 jobs at the facility, create 22 new jobs and invest at least $55 million in capital investment.
Agropur ranks No. 8 on the Dairy 100, Dairy Foods’ annual ranking of the largest dairy processors in North America. It makes cheese, yogurt and fluid milk products. The cooperative had sales of $3.9 billion in 2013. Agropur has four plants in Wisconsin and eight in the rest of the United States. The co-op said it processes more than 5.1 billion liters (11.2 billion pounds) of milk per year in its 36 plants across North America.
Baker invests $7 million
Baker is a fourth-generation cheesemaker. It is investing $7 million in new equipment that will make the company more efficient and enable it to produce additional products. The project is now under way and expected to be completed by October 2016.
“Baker Cheese is committed to the growth of the Wisconsin dairy industry by investing in our Wisconsin cheese plant operations,” said company President Brian Baker. “As an organization, we have remained focused on providing high-quality jobs to our local economy and are excited about this next project for the continued growth of our company.”
The company, which was founded in 1916, manufactures 100% natural string cheese under the Baker Cheese label and for several private labels. The company has the capability to produce string cheese in a variety of flavors and styles for customers of all sizes.
In addition to making building and equipment improvements in St. Cloud, Baker is investing in a new wastewater treatment facility that will help the company expand its whey operations. The demand for whey, now used as a food ingredient, has grown both domestically and internationally. In first three months of 2014, Wisconsin companies exported $44 million in whey to other countries, a 53%increase over last year, according to the WEDC.
To support the project, the WEDC has authorized up to $800,000 in Economic Development Tax Credits for the company over the next three years. The actual amount of tax credits awarded will depend upon the number of jobs created and retained during that period.