Got Jobs? Dairy Plants Bolster Employment in St. Johns Area

Ground has broken on two new dairy processing plants that are expected to add about 300 new dairy industry jobs in St. Johns by October 2020 thanks to recent state and local government approval.

 Select Milk Producers Inc. and Dairy Farmers of America are partnering with Glanbia plc, a global nutrition group based in Ireland, to form Michigan Spartan LLC and build a new $470 million dairy processing facility projected to create 259 new jobs. Proliant Dairy Ingredients has put an additional $85 million into an adjacent whey permeate plant expected to create another 38 new jobs.

Dairy Farmers of America and Select Milk Producers will supply the milk to be processed through the two new plants, along with the Michigan Milk Producers Association.

The 146-acre site will hold several

facilities, including:

A cheese processing facility (Michigan Spartan/Glanbia)

A whey processing facility (Michigan Spartan/Glanbia)

A dairy solids processing operation including the largest permeate drying facility in the world (Proliant Michigan)

A new private wastewater treatment plant (shared infrastructure for both companies)

A new Consumers Energy electrical substation (shared infrastructure for both companies)

Upgraded interior industrial park roads

and paving of Walker Road  (shared infrastructure for both companies)

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economics, Statistics and Market Information System, Michigan ranked fifth in milk production in the U.S. in 2017, with 11.2 billion pounds of milk.

“The new dairy processing campus in St. Johns will process 8 million pounds of milk each day, accounting for nearly a quarter of all milk produced by the 1,700 dairy farms across the state,” said Keith Lambert, vice president of business attraction at LEAP.

The milk industry in Michigan contributes billions of dollars to the state’s economy, and the new milk processing plants are expected to boost that amount since they will help relieve the past problems of high transportation and other costs due to a lack of milk processing facilities in the state.

“This immense and nearby processing facility provides a long-term stabilizing effect on both demand and price level for Michigan dairy farms, 98 percent of which are family-owned. Oversupply has crippled prices over many years and localized value-added processing is a core solution to this issue,” Lambert explained.

The project is also supported by an estimated $27.6 million in grants and tax abatements from the Michigan Strategic Fund, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), and Michigan Department of Transportation. MDARD, along with local officials from the city of St. Johns, Bingham Township and Clinton County, previously approved an Agricultural Processing Renaissance Zone in August to support the plants, and the St. Johns City Commission had given its approval for the site plans.

The commission also approved a $750,000 grant for Michigan Spartan and a $250,000 grant to Proliant Dairy Michigan for supporting the cost of infrastructure. Further, per Public Act 198, the city commission approved establishing an industrial development district as well as industrial facilities tax (IFT).

Exemptions for both Michigan Spartan and Proliant Dairy Michigan make the projects financially feasible. The IFT exemption applications must still get Michigan State Tax Commission approval, which is expected to happen this year.

Additionally, approval of E.T. MacKenzie Co. to work on a connected drain relocation project is pending approval of a purchase and development agreement between the city and Glanbia.

All in all, this is good news for the Michigan dairy industry, and will help them to continue to produce dairy products for consumers, including milk, cheese, yogurt and more for many years to come.

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