Getting the Heck into Dodge: Hilmar Digs Dirt on Its Western Kansas Plant
Earlier today, Hilmar broke ground on their western Kansas future state-of-the-art cheese and whey protein processing plant. The new facility is expected to create 250 new jobs and represent $600 million in capital investments
Founded in 1984 by a dozen local dairy farm families in California’s central valley, Hilmar Cheese Company 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 company has more than 1,500 employees between its two facilities in California and Dalhart, Texas.
Attending the groundbreaking ceremony were Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, Senator 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,” Governor Laura 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!”
Over the last decade, western Kansas has seen a growth in large dairies relocating from other states to the region due to land, feed and labor availability. David Ahlem, Hilmar Cheese 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.
“We are excited about this partnership with Dodge City,” Ahlem says. “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.”
Senator Moran shared that Kansas is a growing dairy state and a prime location for Hilmar Cheese Company’s new processing plant.
“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,” Moran said.
Moran was a guest on AgriTalk this morning, talking about the exciting dairy growth this plant will bring to Kansas.
“Dodge City, Kansas, and it is a major $1 billion investment in our state. And of course, jobs that come with the cheese plant, but significantly even more jobs that come in the dairy business,” Moran told AgriTalk host, Chip Flory. “I don't know that Kansas is often thought of as a dairy state, but it should be, as we've had a lot of growth.”
Adopting the U.S. Dairy Stewardship commitment and goal to achieve a net zero dairy industry by 2050, Hilmar Cheese’s 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, cleaning the facility and equipment, and reclaiming 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.
Hilmar Cheese Board Chairman Jim Ahlem spoke at the groundbreaking event and praised the local support for the projects. He shared that the efforts to locate in Dodge City has been a collaborative effort of many organizations and groups, including:
Kansas Department of Commerce
Department of Ag and Department of Transportation
City of Dodge City
Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation
Black Hills Energy, Victory Electric
Dodge City Public Schools USD 443
Dodge City Community College
Local agricultural producers
“We are grateful to all who have helped bring us to this wonderful community,” he says.
Chairman of the Ford County Commissioners Chris Boys shared, “The impact to our region has started with construction and will compound significantly with dairies, transportation and services that will be required to support the processing facility.”
Major Kent Small stated that Hilmar is a great addition to the community.
“The company has strong cultural values and a focus on stewardship,” he said. “Working together, Dodge City will be able to grow our wastewater use for crop irrigation and renewable biogas production.”
Hilmar Cheese Company offers competitive wages, great benefits and training along with long-term career growth opportunities. The company supports local events, education and health care. Hilmar Cheese Company’s annual scholarship program awards students of its employees, milk producers and community scholarships to support continuing education.
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,” Ahlem said.
September 30, 2022