Walmart’s (NYSE: WMT) public relations director says the retail giant chose Indiana for its first milk processing plant in North America because of its location and "progressive farmer and dairy community." Kevin Thompson says Fort Wayne beat out several locations in surrounding states for the facility expected to create more than 200 jobs. He says first-hand experience with state and local economic development officials on previous investments also brought a comfort level for Walmart leaders in choosing Indiana.
Once it begins production, likely in the summer of 2017, the plant will produce white and chocolate milk for more than 600 Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky. Construction is expected to begin this summer on what Thompson says will be a very high-tech facility. The 250,000 square-foot processing plant is expected to be one of the largest in the nation.
The announcement is a major win for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture’s "dairy strategy," aimed at capitalizing on the state’s dairy assets. ISDA Director Ted McKinney says Indiana ranks 14th in the nation for milk production, but says many farmers end up dumping large amounts of milk because they don’t have anywhere to send it. The state currently has 21 dairy processing plants and 14 farmstead operations.
Lieutenant Governor Eric Holcomb says the announcement is a testament to Indiana’s agricultural industry, which he calls "one of the centerpieces of our state’s economy."
Thompson says the available jobs span the spectrum of skill levels.