Hilmar Cheese Co. Inc. broke ground on the site of its future state-of-the-art cheese and whey protein processing plant in Dodge City, Kan. 

The new facility is expected to create 250 new jobs and represents more than $600 million in capital investment. 

Hilmar Cheese is one of the world’s largest producers of American-style cheese and whey products with customers in more than 50 countries. Founded in 1984 by 12 local dairy farm families in the Central Valley of California, Hilmar added a production facility in Dalhart, Texas, in 2007. The privately owned company currently employs more than 1,500 local residents of those two locations. 

Attending the groundbreaking ceremony were Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, Sen. Jerry Moran, Dodge City Mayor Kent Smoll, Chairman of the Ford County Commissioners Chris Boyd and many other officials and community members. Hilmar’s board of directors, executive team and employees were also on hand to celebrate.

“The Hilmar project is a game-changer for southwest Kansas in terms of job growth, opportunity and lifestyle benefits for those living in Dodge City and surrounding communities,” Gov. Kelly said. “My administration is focused on ensuring prosperity reaches all parts of the state, and I couldn’t think of a better company to join us here. Welcome to Kansas!”

 “We are excited about this partnership with Dodge City,” stated David Ahlem, President and CEO of Hilmar Cheese. “This community has a local and skilled labor force, a supportive and expanding agricultural region, and an excellent transportation network. It is a great location to invest in the future.”

 “Kansas is a growing dairy state and a prime location for Hilmar Cheese Company’s new processing plant,” added Sen. Moran. “Hilmar Cheese recently participated in my Conservation Tour in western Kansas, and they will be a great partner in creating new jobs and bolstering Kansas’ dairy generational dairy farms while remaining committed to sustainability.”

Hilmar Cheese has adopted the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment and goal to achieve a Net Zero dairy industry by 2050. The Dodge City facility will incorporate the latest technology and advancements in conservation and sustainability. A state-of-the-art instrumentation and control systems will minimize the water needed to keep the plant clean and minimize energy usage. Recycled water will be used further in processing protein, to clean the facility and equipment, and to reclaim waste heat. The equipment will utilize the latest technology, such as upgraded spray nozzles for more efficient cleaning. The process will reuse rinse water. The latest equipment, instrumentation and automated controls technology will reduce overall energy use. 

 The sustainability effort continues throughout the site with native and drought tolerant landscaping. These features will decrease Green House Gas (GHG) footprint and minimize water use.

Speaking at the groundbreaking, Hilmar Cheese Company Chairman of the Board, Jim Ahlem, praised the local support for the project, citing 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. 

 “The effort to locate in Dodge City has been a collaborative effort of many organizations,” he said. “We are grateful to all who have helped bring us to this wonderful community.”

Local leaders cited Hilmar Cheese Company as a valued partner and welcomed the company to the Dodge City community. During the ceremony, more than 10 pieces of site preparation equipment were moving dirt in the background. Hilmar Cheese Company is working with contractor Ryan and Co., design consultants Bennets & Pless, Randal Paulson and Olsson and process design consultant IGRL. 

 “We are excited to ‘get the heck into Dodge’ and be part of the Sunflower State,” concluded Ahlem.