The Right Place, Inc., in collaboration with the City of Greenville, Montcalm Economic Alliance (MEA), Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and other state partners, has announced that Wisconsin-based dairy processing cooperative Foremost Farms will invest $57.9 million on a 96-acre site in the Greenville Industrial Park in Greenville.

Foremost hopes to break ground on the first phase of the multiyear endeavor, a 55,000 SF milk condensing facility, in the coming weeks with the intention of being operational before the end of the year. The first phase is expected to create 33 jobs.

Based out of Baraboo, Wisconsin, Foremost Farms is a farmer-owned milk processing and marketing cooperative with about 1,400 dairy farmer members and annual sales of $1.5 billion. It is the nation’s eighth largest cooperative and is 28th in annual sales among the top 100 U.S. dairy processors.

In November 2017, the company acquired the 96-acre parcel at 6501 S. Fitzner Road in the Greenville Industrial Park from the City of Greenville for $1.1 million.

The agencies and anticipated or confirmed commitments are as follows:

  • The Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) is supporting the expansion with a private activity bond inducement valued at up to $12 million. Approval of the bond authorizing resolution is expected to take place at an upcoming MSF meeting.
  • The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is supporting the project with a $500,000 grant from its Food and Agriculture Investment Fund, pending approval from the MDARD during its next meeting March 21.
  • The city of Greenville plans to support the project with a 12-year property tax abatement valued at $2.33 million.
  • The MEDC will consider incentive support for the project at a future date.
  • The company is also expected to receive a grant from West Michigan Works!.

“Foremost Farm’s construction of its new milk processing plant in Greenville will elevate the profile and profitability of our state’s dairy industry, and we’re pleased to support this investment and the new jobs for area residents,” said Jeff Mason, CEO of Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the state’s chief marketing and business attraction arm that administers programs and performs due diligence on behalf of the MSF.

Once open, the 55,000 SF plant will condense 3.2 million pounds of raw milk per day (roughly 386,000 gallons). The final product, condensed milk solids such as cream and skim milk, would be used for Foremost co-op facilities and strategic alliance partners around the Midwest to further process into products such as cheese, butter and yogurt.

At capacity, the plant will be able to condense up to 4 million pounds of raw milk per day. Future phases at the campus call for facilities to produce up to 6 million pounds daily.

Foremost Farms officials hope this initial investment will spur the development of a large-scale dairy processing campus over the next several years. The company is already engaged in talks with companies interested in creating value-added production facilities on the campus to serve Foremost’s cooperative partners.

“Foremost Farms’ executive management and board of directors are very appreciative of The Right Place, MEDC, city of Greenville, MDARD, MDOT, West Michigan Works!, and Representative Jim Lower along with all the other combined agencies in making this a reality to strategically build this facility in Greenville,” said Foremost Farms President and CEO Michael Doyle.

“It is an ideal location as a manufacturing base for Foremost Farms USA to unify our seven-state cooperative membership’s milk. Our goal is to develop and grow this facility to continually meet the value-added needs of our customers. This, along with further developing our strategic alliance with Michigan Milk Producers Association that began at Constantine, Michigan, will add value for our members and all producers in this market,” Doyle added.

This announcement is expected to be well-received from West Michigan dairy farmers, as this initial phase and the long-term campus concept are expected to provide a new distribution channel for milk produced in the region. The new facility will provide area dairy farmers with a much-needed financial boost due to the current lack of available processing capacity in the state. In 2017, the loss to Michigan milk producers was more than $164 million, according to MDARD.

“Value-added processing developments like the one at Foremost Farms are the future of the food and agriculture industry,” said MDARD Director Jamie Clover Adams. “In addition to creating more jobs for Greenville, it also will provide much needed processing for the dairy farmer in this region of Michigan. The impact of these investments on local, regional and statewide economics cannot be overstated.”

Montcalm County officials have widely anticipated this project.

“The city of Greenville appreciates the opportunity to develop a relationship and subsequent partnership with Foremost Farms that is mutually beneficial for both the company and the community,” said George Bosanic, City Manager, City of Greenville.

Along with Greenville, The Right Place, Inc., and Montcalm Economic Alliance served as the key partners with Foremost; however, the agencies also worked collaboratively with MDARD, MEDC, West Michigan Works!, Montcalm Community College, and other local resources to help bring Foremost to Greenville.

  “Through the many evolutions this project has taken, there have been a number of quick responses needed from the many partners involved at all levels,” said Kathy Jo VanderLaan, Business Development - Montcalm County, The Right Place, Inc., and Montcalm Economic Alliance. “The City of Greenville has gone above and beyond with their participation and flexibility. Representative Jim Lower played a key role in getting this over the finish line. The result will be new jobs for people in our community, future growth opportunities, and relief for Michigan dairy farmers.”