“Major jobs’ on horizon for region

CNJ Staff

ALBUQUERQUE — U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici and Gov. Bill Richardson this morning will unveil news about “major jobs and economic development” in eastern New Mexico, according to a press advisory released Wednesday.
“It deals with the dairy industry,” said Chris Gallegos, a spokesman in Domenici’s office. “It will be big news for Curry and Roosevelt counties.”
Area dairy farmers have been negotiating with officials from a cheese processing company to build a cheese plant in the area, but no one directly involved in those discussions would confirm that’s the topic of today’s announcement.
Wayne Palla, chairman of the southwest area council of the Dairy Farmers of America, said he planned to be at this morning’s press conference.
“I know what the announcement is, but I can’t tell you until after it’s made,” he said Wednesday evening.
Mike McClosky, CEO of Select Milk Producers based in Artesia, also will attend the press conference, Palla said.
The senator and governor will make the joint announcement as part of their ongoing effort to work together to create jobs in New Mexico, the press release stated.
The announcement will be made at 9:30 a.m. today at the Albuquerque International Sunport’s Press Room in the Main Terminal.
A spokeswoman in Domenici’s office said the press conference is directly related to the Clovis area, but she would not elaborate.
Dairy Farmers of America, Select Milk Producers Inc., Lone Star Milk Producers Inc. and Zia Milk Producers Inc. and other members of the Greater Southwest Agency have been involved in advanced negotiations with Glanbia — an Ireland-based cheese and whey processing company — since last month. They’ve been talking about building a $170 million cheese and whey products plant in the west Texas/eastern New Mexico region, according to local dairy officials.
The plant would be completed by the latter part of 2005, would staff approximately 200 employees and would promote new milk contracts with area dairies, according to a recent press release from Dairy Farmers of America.
Once fully operational, such a new facility would generate an estimated $340 million in sales annually, according to the DFA press release.
In addition, the plant would process more than 2.27 billion pounds of milk, more than 250 million pounds of cheese and 16.5 million pounds of quality whey proteins, the press release noted.
Chase Gentry, executive director of the Clovis Industrial Development Corporation, said city officials have been in negotiations since 2002 about the possibility of the plant ultimately being based in the Clovis area.