Processing plant on the way

Construction on the Southwest Cheese plant continued Thursday under a gray sky. The $200 million facility is scheduled to open in October.

By Ryn Gargulinski: CNJ staff writer

A St. Louis-based company that uses cheese by-products to produce animal feed ingredients is planning to build a plant near Southwest Cheese Co., company officials said.

Mesa Ingredient Corp. will build a permeate processing plant to convert liquid permeate into a lactose-rich powder for use in animal feeds, according to a press release from the Dairy Farmers of America.

A spokesperson for Gov. Bill Richardson’s office confirmed the deal but would not elaborate on how much the plant would cost or how many employees would be hired.

Richardson has scheduled a press conference for 3:30 p.m. today to announce the details of the plan.

Southwest Cheese CEO and president Maurice Keane said the situation will be advantageous for both companies.

“There is a very good fit with our two organizations,” Keane said. “Mesa will benefit from a reliable supply of high quality liquid permeate and Southwest Cheese will benefit from the consistent demand for our liquid co-product.”

A joint venture between Glanbia, Dairy Farmers of America and Select Milk Producers, the $200 million Southwest Cheese plant will produce 250 million pounds of cheese per year, using 2.4 billion pounds of milk, and producing 16.5 million pounds of whey protein, according to the company’s Web site.

Southwest Cheese officials said the plant, which is scheduled to open in October, will employ 220 when fully operational.

Mesa Ingredient Corporation’s parent company, International Ingredient Corporation, is a privately-held firm that processes co-products from food and beverages into animal feed and pet food ingredients, according to the Dairy Farmers release.

“We’ve been working on putting this project together for quite some time,” said Jim Sullivan, President of International Ingredient Corp. “The Clovis location is ideal for our new plant and the supply of high quality liquid permeate from (Southwest Cheese) makes this a natural for us.”

In addition to Mesa Ingredient Corporation coming to Clovis, at least three other cheese plant spin-offs are under discussion, according to officials at the New Mexico Economic Development Corp.