Fair Oaks Farms Brands plans 133 jobs, $127M for Coopersville milk plant


Fair Oaks Farms Brands plans to bottle Core Power flavored milk at the Coopersville plant. Image via fb.com

Gov. Rick Snyder recently announced a $900,000 incentive grant from the state to induce a second milk processing company to invest in the former Delphi automotive parts plant in Coopersville. 

Fair Oaks Farms Brands will produce “nutritionally enhanced liquid milk products” and is investing $127 million that it says will ultimately create 133 jobs.

Ken Rizzio, executive director of the Ottawa County Economic Development Office, played a key role in helping Fair Oaks Farms get the Michigan Business Development Program’s “performance-based grant,” as it was described in Snyder’s announcement.

Fair Oaks Farms was “looking at (building its new bottling plant) in other states,” including New York, Pennsylvania and Indiana, according to Rizzio, “so that grant helped secure the project for Coopersville.”

Rizzio said the 133 new jobs would be created within two years. The single serving bottled milk drink, which comes in different flavors, carries the brand name Core Power.

Fair Oaks Farms Brands has already started construction of a 60,000-square-foot addition to the former Delphi plant, for the bottling process, and also will use another 120,000 square feet in the existing plant, Rizzio said.

Continental Dairy Products is already making powdered milk at the plant. Continental Dairy Facilities LLC is the development company that built the milk-drying plant in Coopersville, and it is owned by Continental Dairy Products Inc., according to the csfacilitiesllc.com website. 

Timothy den Dulk, who lives near Ravenna, is a principal owner in Continental Dairy Products and also Select Milk Producers.

Rizzio said the group that first approached the city about the possibility of investing in a milk bottling plant was Select Milk Producers, but “for this project they gave it the name of the Fair Oaks brand.”

Raw milk brought to the plant will “go in one of two directions,” said Rizzio, either to be bottled under the Fair Oaks brand or to be dried by Continental Dairy Facilities.

Continental Dairy Products and Select Milk Producers are both dairy cooperatives headquartered in Artesia, N. M., and Select is the 10th argest in the nation, producing 4.4 billion pounds annually from herds on 67 member farms, according to an article in Hoard’s Dairyman in late 2011. Continental is the 20th-largest cooperative and produces 1.6 billion pounds with 27 member farms. By way of comparison, Michigan Milk Producers Association, the 11th largest dairy cooperative, produces 3.9 billion pounds from 1,415 member farms.

In 2009, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority granted a state tax credit to Continental Dairy Products worth $1.5 million over 10 years, because the company would create about 70 jobs at Cooperville.

Ottawa County Economic Development also had helped Continental get an incentive to locate in the empty automotive plant: $31.1 million in bonds backed by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — also known as the Obama administration stimulus. The federal backing theoretically makes bonds more attractive to investors, which can lower the interest rate.

The city of Coopersville also granted Continental a partial exemption of property taxes that is estimated to save Continental about $8 million over 12 years. MDOT granted $321,600 to Coopersville to improve the road leading to the dairy plant, and the city also kicked in $80,400. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided an economic development grant to the city to expand and upgrade its sewage treatment plant to accommodate Continental.

Rizzio said the city also is hoping for an additional MDOT grant to re-build another section of Randall Street that leads to the plant.

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