Dodge City plans for Hilmar Cheese processing and whey production facility to open in 2023

Vincent Marshall
Dodge City Daily Globe
On Wednesday, the City of Dodge City, Gov. Laura Kelly and Hilmar Cheese Company, announced it will call Dodge City home by 2023 as it brings in a new state-of-the-art cheese processing and whey production facility to Dodge City.

As hinted at during the State of the City Address by Dodge City city manager Nick Hernandez in February, Dodge City will be the upcoming home of a cheese and whey protein processing plant by Hilmar Cheese Company.

On Wednesday a joint statement by Hilmar and the City of Dodge City made the plant official.

“One of the biggest advantages for both Hilmar Cheese Company and Dodge City is the cohesive nature of our sustainability efforts," said Hernandez. "They have a standing commitment to being stewards of the environment much like Dodge City, and through this mutually beneficial partnership, we will be able to further utilize our wastewater for crop irrigation and biogas production.”

According to city officials, the project is estimated to bring an additional $550 million in capital investment and 750 new jobs within a 50-mile radius of Dodge City by late 2023.

Founded in 1984, Hilmar Cheese Company is one of the world’s largest producers of high quality American-style cheese and whey products, with customers in more than 50 countries.

The new facility itself is expected to create 247 new jobs and represent $460 million in capital investment, the city stated.

According to Hilmar Cheese Company CEO and president David Ahlem, he stated Dodge City was an “ideal choice” given its central location, critical existing infrastructure, proximity to the growing local dairy industry and business-friendly climate.

“We want our plant to be as good for the environment as it will be for the local economy,” Ahlem said. “We’ll use technologies and sustainable practices to promote carbon neutrality.”

In response to the announcement, Gov. Laura Kelly also said, “Our first-class workforce and central location make Kansas one of the best places in the nation to do business.

“It’s great to see another major food manufacturer like Hilmar choose to put their trust in our state and Dodge City for their newest facility.” 

Upon hearing of the new development, U.S. Senator Roger Marshall said, “Hilmar Cheese Company’s decision to partner with and create jobs in Dodge City is a huge win for the local community, Kansas dairy producers, and our state as a whole.

“Dodge City landed this major business development thanks to their strong agricultural roots and modern infrastructure, and I look forward to seeing Kansans benefit from this facility for years to come.

"To the folks over at the Hilmar Cheese Company, welcome to the great state of Kansas.”

According to Hilmar, the new state-of-the-art facility will showcase sustainable solutions as Hilmar says it is a leader in sustainable practices and has adopted the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment and goal to achieve a Net Zero dairy industry by 2050.

“We greatly appreciate the warm welcome from the State of Kansas and the City of Dodge City officials whose values of integrity and excellence closely align with ours,” Ahlem said. “Dodge City gives us many opportunities including a local and skilled labor force, a supportive and expanding agricultural region, and an excellent transportation network that allows us to easily reach our expanding markets.

“We’re really happy with our decision and excited about becoming a part of this outstanding community."

According to the city, Hilmar coming to Dodge City was made possible by collaboration with the State of Kansas Department of Commerce; Department of Ag and Department of Transportation; the City of Dodge City; Ford County; Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation; Black Hills Energy; Victory Electric; United Tel Com; Dodge City USD 443; Dodge City Community College and area agricultural producers.

Regarding the economic impact, Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation executive director Joann Knight said, “(It) will be compounded substantially by the additional dairies, transportation and services that will be required to support the processing facility once operational as well as the impact that the construction phase will have on our region.”

Hilmar said it expects to break ground this summer and be fully operational by 2024.

To contact the writer email vmarshall@gannett.com