Agribusiness  May 21, 2010

Leprino cheese plant nears construction start

GREELEY – After almost two years of little visible progress, construction at Leprino Food Co.’s mozzarella cheese factory is expected to begin next month.

Site preparation on the 96-acre parcel just east of downtown Greeley has been under way for several months, with heavy equipment reconfiguring the site once occupied by the Great Western Sugar Co. Initial work included mixing lime deposits from decades of sugar beet processing operations – estimated at 700,000 square yards – into dirt for leveling and reshaping the property.

“(Leprino) had to demonstrate to the state that the dirt-lime mix was suitable for building on,´ said Becky Safarik, Greeley community development director. “It’s a pretty nice recycling of it and making it a useful construction material.”

A proposed amendment to Leprino’s original Development Concept Master Plan was approved by the Greeley Planning Commission on May 11. One of the changes OK’d by the commission essentially “flipped” the site plan from north to south, switching an employee-customer entrance into the site from Ash Avenue on the east to First Avenue on the west side. A delivery truck entrance remains on the west side.

Mike Reidy, Leprino vice president, said the change just made sense from an engineering perspective.

“Quite simply it’s the most optimum use of the property and for traffic access around the site,” he said.

Denver-based Leprino announced in June 2008 that it had chosen Greeley as the site of its 10th U.S. production facility. Leprino also has a cheese-making plant in Fort Morgan built in 1994, along with three production facilities in California, two in Michigan and single facilities in New Mexico, New York and Nebraska.

Construction phasing changes

In addition to flipping the plans for the Greeley plant, Leprino is also changing the phasing of its construction.

The original plan called for a 550,000-square-foot facility in the first phase. The new first phase includes a much smaller building – about 127,000 square feet – followed by additional phases that would ultimately result in a slightly greater total square footage. The original total size was about 870,000 square feet, and the revised plan calls for 883,000 square feet.

Reidy said market conditions caused the company to shift to the smaller building first, which will focus on producing powdered milk. “It was just because of the timing of the matching our needs in terms of the demands of the marketplace,” he said.

Reidy added the smaller building will require fewer initial workers. “There’ll be fewer people at first but that will get caught up in the second phase.”

How soon that second phase of construction on the 550,000-square-foot mozzarella production facility will begin remains up in the air, Reidy said.

“The second phase is under active discussion right now,” he said on May 18. “(Market conditions) are shifting and they’re shifting favorably.”

Reidy said he could not offer a specific reason why the overall size of the facility grew by 18,000 square feet in the final submitted design. “It’s not specifically attributable to one certain thing,” he said. “It will be a work area of some kind, but I don’t know for what exactly. A site like this will get adjusted periodically through its development.”

Another aspect of the revised plan approved by the planning commission was Leprino’s desire to reduce the height of its cheese-drying towers from 200 feet to 150 feet.

Michigan general contractor

Lamar Construction Co., based in Hudsonville, Mich., is the general contractor for the $143 million Greeley facility, which is expected to employ up to 500 people at full build-out. Lamar also built Leprino’s Allendale, Mich., plant that opened in February 2008.

The Greeley facility at full build-out will be Leprino’s second-largest factory, Reidy said. Only the Lemoore, Calif., West facility is larger, processing 10 million pounds of milk daily.

The Greeley facility will ultimately process up to 7 million pounds of milk per day. However, Reidy said the first phase of the project – powdered milk production – will only require about 1.5 million pounds per day.

Dairy Farmers of America, a dairy cooperative, has the contract to supply milk to the new plant and its members will be at the head of the line when delivery starts.

Safarik said Leprino has satisfied most of Greeley’s pre-construction requirements. “They’ve pretty much filed it all,” she said. “We’re reviewing their construction and site plans, and that’s a pretty straightforward process.”

Safarik said that could take about two weeks and, barring any major objections by the city, the project’s construction could then get underway.

Reidy said that’s Leprino’s expectation as well.

“I can’t give you a specific date, but I think June is very realistic,” he said.

GREELEY – After almost two years of little visible progress, construction at Leprino Food Co.’s mozzarella cheese factory is expected to begin next month.

Site preparation on the 96-acre parcel just east of downtown Greeley has been under way for several months, with heavy equipment reconfiguring the site once occupied by the Great Western Sugar Co. Initial work included mixing lime deposits from decades of sugar beet processing operations – estimated at 700,000 square yards – into dirt for leveling and reshaping the property.

“(Leprino) had to demonstrate to the state that the dirt-lime mix was suitable for building…

Related Content