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1007 PD: Progressive Events: Hilmar Cheese Company

Brandon Covey Published on 27 September 2007

Exactly 18 months after its groundbreaking ceremony, Hilmar Cheese Company in Dalhart, Texas, hosted an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony in September.

“This is an exciting day for those of us living in the panhandle of Texas. The Dalhart Hilmar Cheese project will prove to be a catalyst for economic growth in this part of the state,” Amarillo Mayor Debra McCartt said during the ceremonies.

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David Ahlem, Hilmar’s Dalhart site manager, says, “It’s really exciting to see a local market for milk develop in this area. In general, the panhandle is just a terrific place for the dairy industry to grow long-term, both from the processing side and the dairy-production side. There are great people, a good feed supply and a business-friendly environment,” Ahlem says. “This area of the country is still an attractive place for producers who want to grow. There are several newly-completed dairies in the area and many more under construction, creating jobs both on the dairies and with allied industry businesses.”

Laquita Gardner, an area retailer with United Supply, says, “I’m excited about it. I think it’s going to bring a lot of good things to Dalhart. It already has.”

David Moore, executive director of the High Plains Dairy Council, says, “The ‘ripple’ of opportunities that have and will come are tremendous. We are seeing a tremendous economic growth in our community that will help the entire Texas Panhandle. Many houses are being built, along with a new high school, not to mention several new businesses that are going up.”

Dr. Ray Perryman did an economic impact study before Hilmar announced its plans. “The study estimated that the ‘Hilmar effect’ could have more than a $2 billion economic annual impact on Dalhart, the Texas panhandle and the entire state, Moore says. “Many dairies are facing tremendous environmental pressure due to urbanization; they now have a wonderful relocation option to get out of that environmental nightmare and relocate to a community that is ag and dairy friendly, with a local market for their high-quality milk.

Local dairyman Jim Albers of Covenant Dairy, will begin shipping to Hilmar in March 2008, when his contract is up with his current co-op. Though he has primarily Holsteins, Albers found it economical to sell to Hilmar Cheese due to the much lower shipping cost. He also said he has begun selecting breeding bulls on cheese merit. “[Hilmar] is very good at marketing their products, and more commercial disappearance of dairy products can only be a good thing for us,” said Albers.

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Hilmar Cheese is a privately owned company that was established in 1984 by 12 local dairy farm families in Hilmar, California. The site in Dalhart is 40 acres, and the building is approximately 200,000 square feet with an investment of $190 million over 10 years. It will run every day 24/7 (four hours to wash), and currently the plant has 120 local employees. The facility will begin processing in October and will grow to produce about 500,000 pounds of cheese each day.

The company will ship 40-pound blocks of American-style cheeses (such as cheddar, Colby and Monterey Jack) to wholesale and food service businesses that will prepare it for customer consumption. The plant also will produce whey protein concentrate for human nutritional supplements and livestock feed. PD

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