By Gary Mitchell
ALBUQUERQUE — A $200 million cheese plant will be built in Curry County and it will bring about 200 jobs to the Clovis/Portales microplex, local officials said Thursday morning.
Gov. Bill Richardson and U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici on Thursday morning unveiled the news that a site five miles south of Clovis would be home to “the largest cheese plant of its type in North America.”
“This announcement represents an expanded partnership between Clovis and Portales that will pay huge dividends to the residents of the Clovis/Portales microplex,” said Chase Gentry, executive director of the Clovis Industrial Development Corporation.
“It’s the culmination of a decade-long effort,” Domenici said. “We set a goal to bring quality jobs to New Mexico like it has never happened before. This cheese plant will bring 200 jobs to Clovis. It will be $200 million in construction, and it will have $350 million in annual sales. It will be a welcome addition to the burgeoning dairy industry in our state.”
Richardson echoed Domenici’s enthusiasm. “I’m so happy to say that Clovis and Curry County is going to be a leader in agriculture as the future home of the Southwest cheese plant. I want to thank the people of Clovis — you worked hard. The Southwest Cheese Plant will provide 205 permanent jobs with an average salary of $29,000 per year. This is a defining moment in our history. New Mexico competed against Texas — and we won.”
Texas Panhandle cities were also being considered as sites for the cheese plant, Gov. Richardson said.
Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez described today’s announcement as “a turning point for New Mexico.”
“A $200 million cheese plant is coming to Clovis,” he said. “It’s a big boost to eastern New Mexico, and the culmination of a lot of hands-on work by the senator and the governor. It’s a big win for New Mexico.”
Mike McClosky, CEO of Select Milk Producers based in Artesia, called the event “truly a milestone for the dairy industry in New Mexico.”
“This will be the most competitive plant in North America, and Glanbia is the best at what they do,” he said. “The city of Clovis and the people of Clovis have been fantastic.”
Glanbia is an Ireland-based cheese and whey processing company
Wayne Palla, chairman of the southwest area council of the Dairy Farmers of America, said although the project has been a long time coming, it has created a unifying bond.
“This entity has been a real uniting venture,” he said. “It not only brought together a Republican (Domenici) and a Democrat (Richardson), but it brought together four cooperatives and a European company. It’s been exciting to be a part of this. We look forward to a long and exciting relationship.”
Alan McEntee with Glanbia said he was looking forward “to turning the sod” for the new plant.
“I want to thank the local people in Clovis,” he said. “They’ve looked after us very well.”
Rance Miles, chief financial officer for Select Milk Producers, said they hoped to begin construction on the new plant by the end of the year.
“It will be located five miles south of Clovis right off Highway 70,” he said.
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.
Gentry said city officials have been in negotiations since 2002 about the possibility of the plant ultimately being based in the Clovis area.