On May 5, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and Hilmar Cheese Company Inc. jointly announced the Hilmar Cheese Company’s decision to build a new state-of-the-art cheese and whey protein processing plant in Dodge City, Kan.

Hilmar, Calif.-based Hilmar Cheese Company, founded in 1984, said it is one of the world’s largest producers of high-quality American-style cheese and whey products, with customers in more than 50 countries. The new facility is expected to create 247 new jobs and represents $460 million in capital investment. The project is estimated to bring an additional $550 million in capital investment and 750 new jobs within a 50-mile radius of Dodge City by late 2023.

David Ahlem, Hilmar Cheese Company’s CEO and president, called Dodge City an “ideal choice” given its central location, critical existing infrastructure, proximity to the growing local dairy industry and business-friendly climate.

“Our first-class workforce and central location make Kansas one of the best places in the nation to do business,” Kelly said. “It’s great to see another major food manufacturer like Hilmar choose to put their trust in our state and Dodge City for their newest facility.”

Hilmar Cheese Company said the state-of-the-art facility will showcase sustainable solutions. The company is a leader in sustainable practices and adopted the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment and goal to achieve a Net Zero status by 2050.

“We want our plant to be as good for the environment as it will be for the local economy,” Ahlem said. “We’ll use technologies and sustainable practices to promote carbon neutrality.”

Nick Hernandez, city manager, added, “One of the biggest advantages for both Hilmar Cheese Company and Dodge City is the cohesive nature of our sustainability efforts. They have a standing commitment to being stewards of the environment much like Dodge City, and through this mutually beneficial partnership, we will be able to further utilize our wastewater for crop irrigation and biogas production.”

The new facility will help Hilmar Cheese Company meet the growing demand of its customers and the marketplace for cheese and whey products worldwide. In addition creating jobs, the plant will create opportunities for the Dodge City community, promote growth for Kansas dairy producers and help Hilmar Cheese Company fulfill its purpose to improve lives, the company said.

The project has been a collaborative effort of many organizations. The State of Kansas Department of Commerce, Department of Ag and Department of Transportation; the City of Dodge City; Ford County; Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation; Black Hills Energy; Victory Electric; United Tel•Com; Dodge City Public Schools USD 443; Dodge City Community College; and area agricultural producers have helped bring the new business to the community, Hilmar Cheese Company said.

“We greatly appreciate the warm welcome from the state of Kansas and the City of Dodge City officials whose values of integrity and excellence closely align with ours,” Ahlem said. “Dodge City gives us many opportunities, including a local and skilled labor force, a supportive and expanding agricultural region, and an excellent transportation network that allows us to easily reach our expanding markets. We’re really happy with our decision and excited about becoming a part of this outstanding community."

Hilmar Cheese Company said it expects to break ground on the facility in the summer of 2021 and be fully operational in 2024.