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Hilmar Cheese to Break Ground in Kansas This Summer

Karen Bohnert

May 10, 2021

Hilmar Cheese Company Inc., Hilmar, Calif., announced last week their plans to build a new state-of-the-art cheese and whey protein processing plant in Dodge City, Kansas, this summer.

With expected plans to break ground on the facility in the coming months, Hilmar says the Dodge City plant is expected to be fully operational in 2024. The new facility is expected to create 247 new jobs and represent $460 million in capital investments. It is also 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.

Founded in 1984 by a dozen local dairy farm families in the Central Valley of Calif., 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 their two facilities in California and Dalhart, Texas.

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.

An upward trend in Kansas April milk production was reported in the recent USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, and March milk production in the state was up 3% from a year prior, with the average number of milk cows reported at 175,000 head; an increase of 4,000 more head than a year ago. Governor Laura Kelly says, “Our first-class workforce and central location make Kansas one of the best places in the nation to do business.”

Hilmar Cheese Company anticipates that milk for the Dodge City plant will be sourced from southwest Kansas dairies.

With Hilmar Cheese Company’s goal to achieve a Net Zero dairy industry by 2050, the state-of-the-art facility will showcase sustainable solutions. “We want our plant to be as good for the environment as it will be for the local economy,” Ahlem says. “We’ll use technologies and sustainable practices to promote carbon neutrality.”

Dodge City Manager, Nick Hernandez, says that one of the biggest advantages for both Hilmar Cheese Company and Dodge City is the cohesive nature of their 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,” Hernandez adds.

In addition to creating jobs, the new Kansas facility will help Hilmar Cheese Company meet the growing demand of its customers and marketplace for both cheese and whey products worldwide. Hilmar Cheese says that the Kansas plant will create opportunities for the Dodge City community, as well as promote growth for Kansas dairy producers.

Ahlem says that Dodge City provides many opportunities including a local and skilled labor force, a supportive and expanding agricultural region and an excellent transportation network that allows them to easily reach their expanding markets. “We’re really happy with our decision and excited about becoming a part of this outstanding community," Ahlem reports.



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