MWC, a $470 million, state-of-the-art cheese and whey plant in St. Johns, Mich., began receiving milk from local farmers this week, marking the first day of operations for the facility and beginning the commissioning phase. An official grand opening will occur at a future date once MWC is fully operational.
Commissioning operations at MWC will take place over the next eight months and will entail increasing the initial 1 million lb. of milk per day to the plant's designed capacity of 8 million lb. per day.
When fully operational, the 375,000 sq. ft. facility built on a 120-acre lot will employ 260 people locally and will process more than 2.9 billion lb. of milk from local farmers into more than 300 million lb. of superior quality block cheese and 20 million lb. of value-added whey protein powders each year.
MWC, a joint venture among Glanbia Nutritionals, Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and Select Milk Producers Inc., is one of the most technically advanced dairy processing facilities in the U.S. and was designed and built over a two-year period to meet exacting food manufacturing standards, according to an announcement.
In determining the site for the new facility, St. Johns was selected due to the region's growing supply of high-quality milk, excellent transportation infrastructure, proximity to customers, positive business environment and strong local workforce reputation.
“We are very pleased to reach this important milestone on our journey to deliver a new, ultramodern dairy facility in Michigan for our customers,” Glanbia Nutritionals chief executive officer Brian Phelan said. “As we enter this key commissioning phase and begin production at the plant, I would like to thank the entire Glanbia Nutritionals team, and in particular the on-site team, whose expertise and focus have kept the project on track and on budget, particularly during the challenges of the last seven months.”
Phelan also thanked state and city authorities for their continued support, as well as partners DFA & Select Milk Producers.
Dennis Rodenbaugh, DFA executive vice president and president of council operations and ingredients, said, “We are excited about this important milestone in the operation, which not only will play a critical role in the dairy industry in Michigan but will bring value to our family farmer-owners here and across the country.”
Rance Miles, CEO of Select Milk Producers, noted that the partnership began two decades ago when the entities created the Southwest Cheese joint venture by bringing together dairy farmers, processors and local communities to achieve beneficial results for all.
“This new facility in Michigan under the same [joint venture] partnership is a continuation of that success,” he said.