By Gary Mitchell
The new $200 million cheese plant will have a greater impact on the area economy than many people realize, local officials said.
“The cheese plant will create 2,000 jobs in the area in spinoff industries, according to the Dairy Farmers of America,” said Gene Hendrick, a consultant for the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce. “It would include trucking jobs, additional dairies, retail and other services. There will be a lot of jobs that will spring from it.”
Wayne Palla, local dairy farmer and chairman of the Southwest Area Council of the Dairy Farmers of America, said the factory “puts cash flow back to dairy farmers in New Mexico and provides a net savings on hauling and transportation.”
“The biggest advantage for us is the fact that we’ll have a local home for the milk we produce,” Palla said. “Right now, we produce more milk than we have the capacity to handle. At times, we have to ship milk to California, Utah, Oklahoma and other places just to find a home for our milk. It’ll be a big boon for us just for the freight savings.”
Palla said the new plant, which is hailed to be the largest in North America, “will be able to handle everything being produced in the area right now.”
When the cheese plant was first being discussed, officials were saying it would be a $170 million facility, but the figure has moved closer to $200 million, Hendrick said.
“The latest figures we’ve heard is between $190-200 million,” he said. “It will be close to $200 million. That includes the land, buildings, equipment, construction materials and labor.”
Construction on the plant is expected to begin by the end of 2003, according to officials. Engineering is underway for the plant, which will sit on a 3,000 acre site five miles south and one mile west of U.S. 70. The estimated time of completion is July 2005.
The plant will create 205 permanent jobs, officials said, with the average annual salary for a permanent plant employee of $29,000.
“It’s going to have as much an impact in Roosevelt County as it will in Curry County,” said Chase Gentry, executive director of the Clovis Industrial Development Corporation. “In fact, it will be build right on the county line.”
Clovis Mayor David Lansford said the factory will contribute millions to eastern New Mexico.
“The bottom line of this whole deal is the fact that it will create jobs not only in the plant, but trucking jobs and other industry-related jobs,” he said. “It will affect every tier of the economy in Curry County.”