Turlock welcomed a new powdered milk processing plant on Friday, and took one step closer to former Mayor John Lazar's vision of becoming the "Silicon Valley of Food Processing."
Valley Milk held a groundbreaking ceremony at the future site of its state-of-the-art facility on Washington Road in the Turlock Regional Industrial Park on Friday and celebrated the start of a new venture for the locally-owned company.
"Beginning late in 2017, Valley Milk will provide a new means for marketing local dairy products while creating good jobs and providing a product which can provide nourishment, improved diets and better health," said Valley Milk CEO Patti Smith. "We are so excited to reach this day and soon begin building our dream to meet the growing demand for powdered milk ingredients throughout the United States and around the world."
Founded by five Central Valley dairy families from Stockton to Chowchilla, Valley Milk chose Turlock to build the milk processing plant because of its central location, quick access to the Port of Oakland and the City's willingness to work with the company, according to Don Machado, Valley Milk chairman and member of one of the founding families.
Valley Milk nutritionist Matt Budine said that Turlock's industrial park was very attractive.
"We did vet a lot of different locations...it really came down to the City of Turlock's can-do attitude," said Budine.
The Valley Milk plant will feature an environmentally-sustainable design, including the ability to minimize its water use by recycling and reusing as much as 80 percent of its water needs. When operational, the plant is expected to employ approximately 55 people.
The new plant is not only a boon for the founding families and their future employees, but also to the local dairy industry as a whole.
"Here in the Central Valley, we've had our challenges the last 10 years with a lack of dairy processing. Increasing dairy processing helps every single dairy family in the Central Valley," said Budine.
While many Central Valley dairies have moved out of state or significantly downsized their operations, the Valley Milk processing plant is a vertical expansion for each of the founding families involved.
"We've been doing this for 80 years, we're confident," said founding family member Johanna Fischer."Environmental issues are difficult in California, but we deal with them."
A member of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, as well as representatives from Congressman Jeff Denham's office, Assembly member Kristin Olsen's office and the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors were on hand to congratulate Valley Milk founders on their new business venture.
Mayor Gary Soiseth, Vice Mayor Amy Bublak, Councilman Steven Nascimento and many members of the City's administrative staff also attended Friday's groundbreaking ceremony.
"We're very excited to have Valley Milk part of our Turlock family," said Soiseth.
Valley Milk joins other recent additions Hilmar Cheese milk processing plant and Blue Diamond almond processing plant in the City's industrial park. The Turlock Regional Industrial Park includes infrastructure that is friendly to agri-business, from truck circulation to wastewater facilities to proximity to a new energy plant. Environmental impacts of potential new industrial uses were studied in the EIR that was adopted with the Specific Plan, allowing for the fast-tracking of entitlements and project-level environmental review.